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'Resident Evil: Extinction' moves into top spot at theaters

September 24, 2007|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

In "Resident Evil: Extinction," Milla Jovovich battles zombies, killer crows, a plague and an evil corporation.

No wonder a batch of prestige fall films proved to be no competition for her at the weekend box office.

The third installment of the "Resident Evil" trilogy, based on the popular video game, drew an estimated $24 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales to open atop the charts, Sony Pictures reported Sunday.

"These movies are just a really cool visceral ride," said Rory Bruer, the studio's president of domestic distribution. "They're in your face."

The survival horror film from Sony's genre arm, Screen Gems, scored the highest opening in the series, if estimates hold when actual sales are calculated today. The second installment, "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," opened to $23 million in 2004.

The R-rated "Resident Evil: Extinction" attracted an audience that was 58% male and 55% under age 25, Sony said.

The movie will ultimately top $50 million domestically, but if it plays like the first two in the series it won't become a long-running hit or approach $100 million.

In a sure sign that the summer movie season is over and kids are back in school, all five of the weekend's top movies were rated R, noted Nielsen EDI. This was the sixth straight weekend that the No. 1 film carried the restrictive rating.

The widely panned romantic comedy "Good Luck Chuck," starring Dane Cook and Jessica Alba, opened to a better-than-expected $14 million for Lions Gate Films to finish at No. 2.

The previous weekend's top film, the Jodie Foster thriller "The Brave One," finished No. 3 with an estimated $7.4 million for Warner Bros., a 45% drop.

The other wide new release, the Amanda Bynes comedy "Sydney White" from Morgan Creek Productions and distributor Universal Pictures, mustered a modest $5.3 million.

Several serious films aimed at adult moviegoers entered the marketplace or expanded, as studios and specialty distributors started rolling out more of their awards hopefuls.

"Into the Wild," writer-director Sean Penn's critically praised adaptation of the bestselling book about a young man's adventure in the Alaskan wilderness, scored the most impressive opening of the group.

The Paramount Vantage release averaged a robust $52,000 per theater, although at only four locations.

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," a western starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck that has divided critics but won some raves, averaged $29,000 at five theaters for Warner Bros.

The romantic comedy-drama "The Jane Austen Book Club" averaged a modest $6,400 at 25 theaters for Sony Pictures Classics.

Going wide in its second weekend, David Cronenberg's mystery thriller "Eastern Promises" cracked the top five with a respectable $5.7 million for Universal Pictures' Focus Features arm.

In its second weekend, Julie Taymor's romantic musical "Across the Universe" grossed a solid $2.1 million from 276 locations for Sony, averaging $7,400 per theater. Like "Jesse James," this 1960s-era story featuring the Beatles songbook is building at least a cult following but also has its share of detractors.

"In the Valley of Elah," filmmaker Paul Haggis' Iraq-war-themed drama starring Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon, faced tougher going in its second weekend.

The Warner Independent Pictures release grossed $1.3 million from 317 locations, averaging $4,000 per theater.

The picture has garnered generally strong reviews, but it remains to be seen whether a rush of films this fall about the Iraq war and other geopolitical topics can succeed commercially.

After a summer of record box-office revenue for the industry, total revenue this weekend was down an estimated 4.1% from the same weekend in 2006, ending a 10-weekend streak of higher receipts, according to research firm Media by Numbers.

--

josh.friedman@latimes.com

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