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'Blind Side' hits No. 1 as 'Up in the Air' soars

The football drama starring Sandra Bullock brings in $20.4 million over the weekend, while the George Clooney film shows promise in limited release.

December 07, 2009|By Ben Fritz
  • Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw star in "The Blind Side." Ticket sales dropped 49% from Thanksgiving weekend, the smallest decline for any film in wide release.
Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw star in "The Blind Side." Ticket… (Ralph Nelson / Warner Bros. )

Box-office phenomenon "The Blind Side" dominated the traditionally slow weekend after Thanksgiving as four new movies failed to do much business but "Up in the Air" soared in limited release.

The unemployment-themed "Up in the Air," which stars George Clooney and which garnered largely positive reviews, sold a studio-estimated $1.2 million worth of tickets at 15 theaters in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend. The drama's average sales per venue of $79,000 were the third highest for any movie this year behind "The Princess and the Frog" and "Precious," setting it up well as Paramount Pictures expands the film over the next few weeks and aims for a long run during awards season, when it is expected to score multiple award nominations.

Although the four new movies to open nationwide -- "Armored," "Brothers," "Everybody's Fine" and "Transylmania" -- all grossed less than $10 million, total box-office receipts rose 23% from the same weekend last year, according to Hollywood.com. That continues the industry's record-breaking year that has driven domestic box-office revenue up nearly 9% this year despite the economic downturn.

"The Blind Side" continued its strong run as it dropped 49% from the huge Thanksgiving weekend, the smallest decline for any film in wide release. After adding $20.4 million, the inspirational football drama starring Sandra Bullock has now collected $129.3 million. Alcon Entertainment spent only $35 million to produce the picture.

"Brothers" had the strongest performance among the weak crop of newcomers, grossing a soft $9.7 million. Audiences seemed to agree with the mixed reviews from critics, giving the drama about a Marine returning from war in Afghanistan an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore -- only a decent mark since moviegoers are typically generous graders.

"Given the subject matters and the fact that the post-Thanksgiving weekend is not great for moviegoing, we think it was a solid opening," said David Spitz, executive vice president of distribution for Lionsgate, which released the film.

Relativity Media financed "Brothers," which has a big-name cast including Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal, for $26 million, making the movie's financial prospects dim.

The same is true for Sony's "Armored." The action thriller cost about $20 million to produce and opened to $6.6 million, making it a rare misfire for the studio's Screen Gems label. Audiences weren't too excited, giving the picture an average grade of B-minus.

The family comedy "Everybody's Fine," starring Robert De Niro, was an even bigger flop, opening to just $4 million. Miramax Films and Radar Pictures financed the poorly received movie for a little more than $20 million.

It's the last movie that Miramax will release before most of its operations are folded into parent company Walt Disney Studios.

The decision by the producers of "Transylmania" to release the horror comedy through their own start-up venture, Full Circle Releasing, proved disastrous, as the movie grossed just $274,000. That's the third-worst opening ever for a movie playing at more than 600 theaters.

Overseas, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" remains very strong, grossing $40.7 million this weekend, more than double the $15.7 million it collected domestically. The teen vampire drama, which cost Summit Entertainment about $50 million to produce, is already well into profit with a gross of $570.1 million worldwide. Studios typically keep about half their domestic ticket sales and 40% of what their pictures collect internationally.

Sony's "2012" took in $35 million from foreign countries, bringing the total worldwide gross for the $200-million disaster flick to $666.2 million.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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