New releases open to mixed results

Sony Screen Gems’ Samuel L. Jackson thriller “Lakeview Terrace” easily debuted at No. 1 over the weekend, while Focus Features’ “Burn After Reading” continued to fan the flames in its soph sesh.

Directed by Neil LaBute, “Lakeview Terrace” performed strongly in grossing an estimated $15.6 million from 2,464 runs. The Coen brothers’ “Burn After Reading” came in second, declining a slim 41% to an estimated $11.3 million from 2,657 for a cume of $36.4 million in its first 10 days.

It was a very soft sesh at the box office otherwise.

Lionsgate’s Dane Cook-Kate Hudson R-rated comedy “My Best Friend’s Girl” fell well short of expectations in grossing an estimated $8.3 million from 2,604 to come in third. Unlike Cook’s pics, most of Hudson’s comedies have been rated PG-13.

Exodus Film Group’s family toon “Igor,” distributed by MGM, opened to an estimated $8 million from 2,330 to place fourth.

DreamWorks/Paramount and Spyglass’ comedy “Ghost Town,” starring Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear, managed only the No. 8 spot despite sporting the best reviews of any new film. Pic grossed an estimated $5.2 million as it opened in 1,505 theaters.

Overall, the weekend was down roughly 5% from the same frame last year, when Sony’s ‘Resident Evil: Extinction” opened to $23.7 million and Lionsgate’s R-rated Dane Cook-Jessica Alba comedy “Good Luck Chuck” debuted to $13.6 million.

Part of the problem this year could be that too many films were competing for female eyeballs. “Lakeview Terrace” and “Burn After Reading” both skewed slightly female. “Best Friend’s Girl” played heavily to younger women, while “Ghost Town” drew older women. Of “Ghost Town’s” aud, 80% were over age 25, while 44% of that group was over age 50.

Picturehouse’s holdover “The Women” also is still fresh in the marketplace. Pic came in No. 7 in its second frame, declining 48% to an estimated $5.3 million for a 10-day cume of $19.2 million.

The specialty side, however, saw several bright spots, led by Paramount Vantage’s Keira Knightley period drama “The Duchess,” which nabbed a per-location average of $28,932 as it grossed an estimated $205,527 from seven theaters in New York, L.A. and Toronto.

Warner Bros.’ Viggo Mortensen-Renee Zellweger-Ed Harris Western “Appaloosa” posted a per-screen average of $18,429 as it grossed $258,000 from 14 theaters in the same three markets. Directed by Harris, “Appaloosa” opens nationwide Oct. 3.

Among those films on the top 10 chart, Overture Films’ Al Pacino-Robert De Niro cop actioner “Righteous Kill” came in fifth, falling 57% in its second weekend to an estimated $7.7 million from 3,152 theaters. Cume is $28.8 million in its first 10 days.

“Righteous Kill” was likely hurt by the entry of “Lakeview Terrace,” which revolves around a Los Angeles cop who doesn’t like his new neighbors, an interracial couple.

“Lakeview Terrace,” with a production budget of $20 million, was produced by Will Smith and James Lassiter’s shingle Overbrook Films. Kerry Washington and Patrick Wilson also star.

“This is a movie that will be highly successful for us,” Sony prexy of domestic distribution Rory Bruer said. “It’s great to be partners with Overbrook, while Sam Jackson hit it out of the park.”

Likewise, Exodus CEO John Eraklis said “Igor” is already a victory, since it cost $20 million to produce. A twist on the familiar hunchbacked lab assistant of monster movies, the film is in prime position to take advantage of the Halloween frame.

“To be in the top five, we certainly can’t complain,” said Eraklis, adding that the pic should have solid legs since there isn’t another family toon until November.

Modestly budgeted films — or to be more precise, pics with a production pricetag of $20 million — were the theme of the day: “Best Friend’s Girl” and “Ghost Town” each cost that as well, meaning financial exposure was limited, according to their respective studios.

DreamWorks and Spyglass are equal financing partners on “Ghost Town” and have expectations that the film will have a solid overseas run given that Gervais is a Brit staple.

Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested “Best Friend’s Girl” would come in closer to “Lakeview Terrace” and “Burn After Reading.”

For Focus, the news was all good as “Burn” continued to deliver. Saturday shows were particularly strong.

“To have a drop of only 41% shows how great word of mouth is,” Focus distribution prexy Jack Foley said. “It was just a great weekend.”

On the specialty side, other new openers after “Duchess” and “Appaloosa” included Stuart Townsend’s Charlize Theron topliner “Battle for Seattle,” which posed a per-screen average of $6,276 as it opened in eight theaters, and Dakota Fanning starrer “Hounddog,” which saw a per-screen average of $1,136 as Empire Films opened the pic in 11 theaters to an estimated gross of $12,500. Magnolia’s “A Thousand Years of Good Prayer” reported a per-screen average of $5,750 as it grossed an estimated $11,500 from two theaters.

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