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Sunday, September 28, 2008

'Eagle Eye' soars to huge $29.2m debut, Sept. 26-28, 2008

Thanks to a hefty marketing push and the surging star power of Shia LeBeouf, Paramount/DreamWorks' Eagle Eye dominated the box office with a $29.2 million debut, posting one of the largest September openings in history. Three other films made their wide release debuts this weekend, including Diane Lane and Richard Gere's Nights in Rodanthe, Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna and a surprisingly strong fourth place finish for Kirk Cameron's Fireproof.

Averaging a top ten best $8,319 in 3,510 theaters, the $80 million budgeted Eagle Eye posted the fourth biggest September weekend in history, behind only 2002's Sweet Home Alabama with $35.6m, 1998's Rush Hour with $33m, and 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose with $30m. Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by D.J. Caruso (who teamed up with LeBeouf on last year's $80 million hit Disturbia), the film wasn't well received by critics. However, a 26% increase in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday ($9.8m to $12.3m) is an encouraging sign for the film's word of mouth going forward.

In second was the Warner romance Nights in Rodanthe, which debuted with $13.6 million. Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, the Diane Lane-Richard Gere starrer averaged a solid $5,018 in 2,704 theaters. The pair also teamed up in 2002's Unfaithful, which debuted with $14.1 million on its way to $52.7 million domestic. Reviews were just as unkind as Eagle Eye.

Last week's champ Lakeview Terrace fell 53% to $7 million, bringing its ten day cume to $25.7 million. The Sony release should reach $40 million by the end of its run.

The big surprise of the weekend came from Kirk Cameron's drama Fireproof, which defied most estimates with a strong $6.5 million opening. Launching in just 839 theaters, the $500,000 budgeted Christian-themed drama averaged an incredible $7,764 per theater. Promoted heavily in churches and with religious groups across the country, the film is the just latest in a new wave of low-budget theatrical releases tapping into the demographic. 2006's Facing the Giants, an independently produced $100,000 budgeted football drama released by IDP, made waves bowing with $1.3 million and finishing with a highly profitable $10.1 million. The films marketing campaign was almost exclusively based on word of mouth.

Rounding out the top five was the Coen brothers' dark comedy Burn After Reading, which took in another $6.2 million bringing its cume to $45.5 million. The Brad Pitt-George Clooney starrer has not surpassed The Ladykillers as the second highest grossing film of their careers, behind only last year's Best Film winner No Country for Old Men, which took home $74.3 million.

Spike Lee turned out a dud in his first foray into the war genre, as his film Miracle at St. Anna took in a disappointing $3.5 million in 1,185 theaters for a $2,954 average. Reviews were poor, with just 29% of critics polled by Rottentomatoes.com giving the film a recommendation.

Thanks to the powerhouse debut from Eagle Eye, the top ten films grossed $82.2 million, up 15% from last year's comparable frame when The Game Plan debuted at No. 1 with $23 million.

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