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Sunday, March 15, 2009

'Race to Witch Mountain' knocks off 'Watchmen' with $25m debut, March 13-15, 2009

*Correction: I misspelled Watchmen director Zack Snyder earlier (thanks Terry).
Disney's family adventure Race to Witch Mountain unseated Warner's superhero epic Watchmen, landing a solid $25 million opening this weekend. Universal's The Last House on the Left debuted in third with $14.6 million, while Fox Searchlight's Miss March opened a distant tenth with $2.3 million. However, given the massive 67% drop in sales for Watchmen, as well as solid but not overly strong openings from the three newcomers, the box office slipped below last year's comparable frame for the first time in six weeks.

Disney successfully restarted its old Witch Mountain franchise thanks to star Dwayne Johnson, who notched the sixth No. 1 opening of his career. Knocking off Watchmen from its one week perch at the top, the PG-rated pic averaged a strong $7,844 in 3,187 theaters. The opening was slightly better than Johnson's previous family-friendly collaboration with director Andy Fickman The Game Plan, which bowed to $23 million on its way to $90.6 million domestic. Reviews were mostly poor, with just 39% of critics polled by Rottentomatoes.com giving the film a recommendation rating.

Warner's Watchmen followed up the biggest weekend of 2009 with a huge 67% slide in its sophomore frame, finishing with just $18.1 million. Despite solid reviews the film's lengthy running time and apparently lukewarm word of mouth seems ready to doom the film to a disappointing domestic finish. In ten days the $150 million budgeted comic adaptation has grossed $86 million, and seems to have failed in luring fans outside of its core male demographic. At its current pace the Zack Snyder directed pic will have trouble breaking $120 million domestic.

Universal's horror thriller The Last House on the Left debuted in third with $14.7 million, averaging a strong $6,105 in 2,401 theaters. Thanks to a hefty marketing campaign the remake of Wes Craven's 1972 classic should earn $35-40 million.

Liam Neeson's thriller Taken fell a top ten best 9% in its seventh week of release, bringing in another impressive $6.7 million this weekend. The modestly budgeted Fox release will likely be the sleeper hit of the entire year, and its cume now stands at an incredible $126.8 million. At its current pace the film should have no problem surpassing $140 million domestic.

Lionsgate's Madea Goes to Jail fell 40% to $5.1 million, bringing its cume to a very strong $83.2 million.

Oscar darling Slumdog Millionaire fell just 26% to $5 million, pushing its cume to $132.6 million.

Rounding out the top ten was Fox Searchlight's sex comedy Miss March, which took in $2.4 million in 1,742 theaters. The raunchy pic was severely beaten down by critics.

Thanks to the massive drop in sales for Watchmen, the top ten films grossed an estimated $85.5 million, down 16% from last year's comparable frame when Fox/Blue Sky Studio's Horton Hears A Who opened with $45 million.

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