Heist film knocks down 'Pirates'

Warner Bros.-Village Roadshow’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” launched to $37.1 million, which was on a par with the first two entries in the series and enough to ensure the B.O. crown — but a reminder, after three socko launches in May, that not every film in the Summer of Sequels is going to ignite the boxoffice with record-breaking figures.

Overall, the weekend was pretty tepid, but “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Knocked Up” proved impressively durable, relegating Sony Animation’s newcomer, “Surf’s Up,” to fourth place while Lionsgate’s “Hostel: Part II” bowed at No. 6, taking in just $8.8 million.

The first “Hostel” pic bowed in January 2006 to $19.5 million; a summer opener, in a particularly crowded marketplace, proved a gamble that didn’t pay off for the distrib.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” also shifted from the winter debut of its predecessors into a summer slot.

“Hostel: Part II” launched after a recent flood of hard-R slasher pics that also saw underwhelming bows (though the genre almost always does well in DVD afterlife).

“Surf’s Up,” which took in $18 million from 3,528 locations, had to vie with memories of other films centered on penguins, most recently Warner’s CG hit “Happy Feet,” which bowed last winter.

In addition, Paramount and DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek the Third” may have stolen some of the “Surf’s Up” mojo. The CG pic is still stomping among the top 10 and took in $15.8 million in its fourth weekend, raising cume to $281.9 million after a month in release. A year ago in the same frame, Disney launched “Cars” to No. 1 and more than $60 million.

The $37.1 million opening for “Ocean’s Thirteen” didn’t quite match the perf of the previous entries in the franchise. “Ocean’s Twelve,” despite poor critical notices, hauled in $39.1 million in its first frame; “Ocean’s Eleven” did $38.1 million in its debut.

Latest installment — penned by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and produced by Jerry Weintraub — scored slightly below expectations despite the kind of critical support that that few other popcorn pics have enjoyed so far this summer. Tracking data had the pic on a pace to jump ahead of the other two films in the series by taking in around $40 million.

But Warners distribution topper Dan Fellman said he expects the pic to wind up with the biggest opening week of any of movie in the franchise by picking up healthy midweek biz during its summer playtime.

Exec noted that most of the pic’s audience was over 25, a factor that tends to build biz after opening weekend. Movie could have a good run with the over-25 crowd as younger-skewing films, including “Nancy Drew” and the latest “Fantastic Four” movie, enter the marketplace next weekend.

This summer’s B.O. pace is now behind that of 2004, the biggest on record, by 1% or $15.1 million, according to Nielsen EDI.

Among holdovers, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” managed to slow its decline in its third frame, sliding 52% after a 61% plummet last weekend to nail the No. 2 slot and bring cume to $253.6 million domestically.

Universal’s “Knocked Up,” the relationship laffer from Judd Apatow, kicked into third place in its soph sesh, with $20 million. Cume now stands at $66.2 million on the modestly budgeted breakout.

“Hostel: Part II,” meanwhile, marked another disappointment for the previously hot horror genre, posting a per-theater average of just $3,723 from 2,350 locations.

Other recent horror sequels have been unable to carve as big a slice of the B.O. as their predecessors: “The Hills Have Eyes II,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” and “The Grudge 2″ failed to land at the same levels as the pics that spawned them. And recent horror originals, including “Grindhouse” and “Vacancy,” also have gone off the rails.

Among other holdovers in the top 10, Sony’s “Spider-Man 3″ snared another $4.4 million and swung its cume past $325.7 million after six weeks in release.

MGM’s “Mr. Brooks” sneaked up to $18.7 million by adding $5 million over the weekend.

Paramount and DreamWorks thriller “Disturbia” remained in the top 10 after nine frames. Pic, starring Shia LaBeouf, has cumed $77.8 million.

Aside from the top few pics, the frame was pretty weak; for example, “Disturbia” landed at No. 10 at just 568 theaters. Fox Searchlight’s “Waitress” served up a No. 9 perf, with $1.7 million from just 708 locations as a platform rollout and one of the season’s counterprogramming specialty film successes.

Fox Searchlight also expanded “Once” to under 100 screens over the frame, taking in $515,000.

HBO-New Line’s Picturehouse opened Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” in eight locations for a healthy $171,786. That accounted for a $21,473 per-screen average.

Picturehouse topper Bob Berney said he sees summer opening up for specialty fare as auds tire of the blockbusters.

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