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Moviegoers Feast on Serial (Killer)
Los Angeles (E! Online) - Would-be Oscar contenders are flatlining. A writers' strike is looming. On the bright side, serial killers are still money.
The Jigsaw-graced Saw IV topped the weekend box office with $32.1 million, per estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations Sunday. The bow was Hollywood's biggest in more than two months.
Steve Carell, meanwhile, saw a nice but unspectacular debut for his non-serial-killer entry Dan in Real Life (second place, $12.1 million).
The opening was the smallest of Carell's still-young career as a movie star—even the much maligned Evan Almighty, for instance, started off with $31.2 million. But for a fall film in a fall that's been quite unkind to movies about people who don't kill vampires (30 Days of Night), slay zombies (Resident Evil: Extinction), wage a vigilante war on crime (The Brave One) or engage in an Old West gunfight (3:10 to Yuma), the gentle comedy-drama posted the season's biggest debut behind only Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? and The Game Plan.
That said, Dane Cook, who costars as Carell's brother in Dan in Real Life, saw a bigger opening for his much maligned star turn in Good Luck Chuck than Carell and company saw for their better-reviewed film.
Then again, Good Luck Chuck opened bigger, and has made more money to date ($34.8 million), than most of the season's offerings, especially the star-driven Oscar vehicles, à la George Clooney's Michael Clayton (sixth place, $5 million; $28.8 million overall), Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal's Rendition ($2.3 million; $7.7 million overall) and the Ben Affleck-directed Gone Baby Gone (seventh place, $3.9 million; $11.3 million).
The list of A-list fall bombs goes on and on, per Box Office Mojo stats: Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro's Things We Lost in the Fire ($715,000; $2.8 million overall); Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth: The Golden Age ($1.6 million; $14 million overall); and Brad Pitt's The Assassination of Jesse James ($430,000; $2.9 million), the smallest grossing film of its star's career, by a lot, in 14 years.
The fall has been so brutal that not even the magic words Ben Stiller comedy worked on audiences. In its fourth weekend, Stiller's The Heartbreak Kid ($1.8 million; $35.1 million) slipped out of the top 10 and into a coma.
Even the art-house circuit has been hit. Ryan Gosling's Lars and the Real Girl ($952,000, $1.4 million overall) isn't blowing up. Ang Lee's NC-17-rated Lust, Caution ($471,000; $2.8 million overall, per Box Office Mojo) isn't heating up. And Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited ($1.7 million; $6.1 million overall) isn't expanding, even as it moved into wide release for the first time in five weekends.
By comparison, by the time Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums moved onto 600-plus screens back in 2002, the movie, which was also in its fifth weekend, grossed $8.5 million, bringing its overall total to $20.7 million.
Given all the grim stats, it was no surprise that the box office posted its sixth straight down weekend when compared to last year's totals.
And more bad news for Hollywood might be on the way in the form of a midnight Halloween strike by union screenwriters. The good (or bad) news for moviegoers is that there are plenty of movies in the can or in the works should a walkout happen.
Saw IV, for one, tried its grisly best to help out, opening in line with 2006's Saw III ($33.6 million) and 2005's Saw II ($31.7 million).
Eighty-three-old director Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico), meanwhile, showed the youngens how it's done, posting the weekend's best per-screen average for his latest, the heist drama Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which took in $73,500 from only two theaters.
Here's a rundown of the top 10 films based on Friday-Sunday estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Saw IV, $32.1 million
2. Dan in Real Life, $12.1 million
3. 30 Days of Night, $6.7 million
4. The Game Plan, $6.3 million
5. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?, $5.7 million
6. Michael Clayton, $5 million
7. Gone Baby Gone, $3.9 million
8. The Comebacks, $3.5 million
9. We Own the Night, $3.4 million
10. Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, $3.3 million