Football pic tops weekend with $20.4 million

Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment’s “The Blind Side” sacked the competish at the domestic box office, grossing an estimated $20.4 million from 3,326 theaters in its third game of the season.

“Blind Side” has become a B.O. phenom, turning into an all-audience title after initially being driven by older females. Cume is $129.3 million.

While it’s normally a slow sesh, the domestic B.O. continues to run at record levels, with the weekend up 22% over the same frame last year.

Summit Entertainment’s “New Moon” remained a top player, grossing an estimated $15.7 million from 4,124 theaters in its third weekend for a domestic cume of $255.6 million.

“New Moon” won the weekend at the international B.O., grossing an estimated $40.7 million for a foreign cume of $314.5 million and massive worldwide total of $570.1 million — nearly $200 million more than “Twilight’s” global cume.

In limited release, Paramount’s George Clooney starrer “Up in the Air” soared. The Jason Reitman-directed pic nabbed a lofty per-screen average of $79,000, grossing $1.2 million from 15 theaters in major markets.

“Blind Side” and “New Moon” made life difficult for new wide players.

Lionsgate and Relativity Media’s war-veteran drama “Brothers” fared best, grossing $9.7 million from 2,088 theaters to place No. 3. Moviegoers have largely shunned films dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Jim Sheridan’s film came in on the upper end of expectations.

“Brothers,” toplining Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman, posted a better opening than many other films about the effects of war.

Sony/Screen Gem’s male-driven actioner “Armored” opened to a soft $6.6 million from 1,915 locations to tie for No. 6 with Sony’s own holdover “2012.”

Robert De Niro comedy “Everybody’s Fine” opened to just $4 million from 2,133 theaters. Pic is Miramax’s final title as a standalone specialty unit; the distrib now becomes a label within Disney.

Teen vampire comedy “Transylmania” went nowhere, grossing a meager $274,000 from 1,005 runs. Full Circle distributed.

Top player “Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock, is one in a string of 2009 films that have turned into sleeper hits, such as Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity,” Warners’ “The Hangover” and 20th Century Fox’s “Taken.”

“Blind Side” was picked up in turnaround from Fox and fully financed by Alcon, which has an output deal with Warners. Pic cost $35 million to produce and is Alcon’s first unqualified B.O. hit.

“Initially, the film’s core audience was older. What we’re finding now is that it is becoming a movie that people are finding age appropriate for kids 8 years and older,” said Alcon’s Broderick Johnson, who shares the CEO title with Andrew Kosove. Film is playing well across all markets but is particularly strong in the Midwest and South, fertile areas for family films.

Like Warners with “Blind Side,” Lionsgate distributed and marketed “Brothers,” but the pic came out of Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media, which has an output deal with Lionsgate.

“Brothers” cost $27 million to produce and drew primarily adults.

“Given that on Friday, we thought we were going to do about $6 million, and now we are at $9 million, obviously everybody was really happy,” Lionsgate prexy of domestic distribution David Spitz said.

“Up in the Air,” which continues to widen over the next two weeks before a nationwide expansion on Christmas Day, was developed at DreamWorks but became a Paramount-produced project after the DreamWorks-Par divorce.

Reitman’s pic has garnered excellent reviews and was named best picture of the year last week by the National Board of Review. Its opening per-screen average was higher than those of pics including “Juno,” “Gran Torino” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

For other prestige-minded titles, the news wasn’t so good.

Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” from 20th Century Fox, declined a steep 59% in its second weekend in nationwide release to an estimated $2.9 million from 2,024 runs for a cume of $14 million. The film placed No. 11 for the weekend.

The weak performance signals that “Mr. Fox,” with a voice cast led by Clooney and Meryl Streep, isn’t getting the family crowd, as Fox hoped it would once it went wide. The film, one of the best-reviewed titles of the year, began as a limited release four weeks ago and saw impressive numbers. It expanded nationwide over the Thanksgiving frame to less-than-stellar results.

Lionsgate’s “Precious” has begun losing momentum as well, although it has amassed an impressive cume of $36.3 million, one of the top showings of the year for a prestige pic. The drama declined a steep 67% to an estimated $2.3 million from 664 theaters in its fifth week.

The Weinstein Co.’s “The Road” declined 49% in its second sesh to an estimated $759,774 from 128 theaters (an increase of 17 runs) for a so-so per-screen average of $5,936.

Among wide players, holdover “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” continued to make up for a soft start five weeks ago, coming in No. 4 for the frame. The 3D holiday title grossed an estimated $7.5 million from 2,546 runs for a cume of $115 million, helped by returns from Imax theaters.

Overseas, “Christmas Carol” also is hanging in there, grossing $16.9 million for the sesh from 5,400 screens in 46 territories. Foreign cume is $118.2 million for a worldwide tally of $233.2 million.

Sony’s “2012” is an unqualified blockbuster overseas. Pic came in No. 2 for the frame after “New Moon,” grossing $35 million for a foreign haul of $517.5 million and worldwide tally of $665.8 million.

Elsewhere at the foreign B.O., Disney/Pixar’s “Up” boasted a huge start in Japan, grossing $7 million at 525, the second best opening for an animated film after Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” “Up’s” foreign cume is a sizable $390 million.

Warner Bros. Intl.’s local pic “Zweiohrkueken” grossed a boffo $9.1 million from 900 screens throughout Germany. Warners produced the pic with Barefoot Films, Rothkirch/Cartoon Film and SevenPictures.

Disney Intl.’s “Old Dogs” grossed $4.5 million from 1,200 runs in five territories for a foreign cume of $6.2 million. Frame was led by Russia at $2.3 million. Domestically, the comedy declined 59% in its second sesh to an estimated $6.9 million for a cume of $33.9 million and worldwide tally of $40.1 million.

Warners’ “Ninja Assassin” grossed an estimated $4.3 million from 1,270 screens in 18 territories for a foreign cume of $12.4 million. Film declined 62% domestically to $5 million for a cume of $29.8 million in its second frame. Worldwide tally is $42.2 million.

Fox Intl. Prod.’s first release, “Spanish Movie,” got off to a strong start in Spain, grossing $3 million and placing No. 1. It was the third best debut of the year for a local film.

Paramount Intl.’s local Spanish pic “Celda 221″ continued to draw auds, grossing $950,000 for a cume of $9.4 million.

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