Disney remake bumps 'Watchmen' from top

Disney family adventure remake “Race to Witch Mountain” sprinted to the top of the domestic box office chart in its debut, grossing $25 million from 3,187 theaters to topple Warner Bros. holdover “Watchmen.”

“Watchmen” fell a hefty 67% in its soph sesh, although many had expected the drop to be even higher. Pic grossed an estimated $18.1 million from 3,611 runs for a cume of $86 million.

Overseas, “Watchmen” fell 50% to an estimated $13.5 million for a foreign cume of $49.5 million. Pic’s worldwide total of $135.5 million in 10 days eases concerns that it will be a pricey financial loser for Warners, Legendary Pictures and Paramount (Par is distributing overseas). Pic cost north of $200 million to produce and market.

In a surprise upset, 20th Century Fox’s “Marley and Me” was No. 1 at the international box office, grossing an estimated $13.9 million as it expanded into major markets, including the U.K.

On the domestic side, Rogue Pictures and Universal’s horror entry “The Last House on the Left” opened to a solid $14.7 million from 2,401 runs to place No. 3 for the weekend.

Fox Atomic’s “Miss March,” distributed by big Fox, did minimal business in its bow. Raunchy comedy grossed an estimated $2.4 million from 1,742 to place No. 10.

For the first time in nearly two months, the domestic B.O. was down roughly 17% from the same weekend last year, when “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who” debuted to $45 million. There’s still plenty of cushion; revenues for the year remain up by more than 13%, while admissions are up more than 9%.

Making headlines on the specialty side was Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” which is now among the 10 top-grossing Oscar best picture winners. Pic’s domestic cume through Sunday was $132.6 million; its foreign total could hit $120 million by the time weekend numbers are tallied.

Overture’s indie film “Sunshine Cleaning” grabbed the best per-location average of the year — $53,500 — as it debuted in four theaters, grossing $214,000. Pic stars Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin.

Also opening was Samuel Goldwyn/IDP’s docu “Brothers at War,” which grossed $34,050 from seven runs for a per-location average of $5,060.

Among holdovers at the domestic B.O., Fox’s runaway hit “Taken” remained in the top five after seven weeks. Placing No. 4, pic declined only 9% to an estimated $6.7 million; cume is $126.8 million. Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail” likewise remains a strong performer. Pic placed No. 5 in its fourth week, declining 40% to an estimated $5.1 million for a cume of $83.2 million.

Heading into the weekend, many thought the race would be closer between “Watchmen” and “Witch Mountain,” which reteams Dwayne Johnson and director Andy Fickman in their first outing since “The Game Plan.”

“This is two for two. They open up their first picture to $22.9 million, and now, $25 million. The beauty of this picture is that it is playing strongly across all quadrants, and not just among families,” Disney prexy of domestic distribution Chuck Viane said.

“Game Plan” cumed $90.6 million domestically and $57.2 million at the international B.O.

Overseas, “Witch Mountain” opened in only a few territories. It got off to a strong start in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, grossing $725,000 and matching “Game Plan’s” debut. (Disney is going out first in those three territories because of the usual concern over piracy).

On the domestic side, “Witch Mountain” skewed slightly female at 51%. Kids made up 28% of the aud, followed by teenagers at 17% and adults 26-34 at 17% and then adults 18-25 at 11%. Disney said 18% of the audience were adults not attending with children.

Disney hopes “Witch Mountain” will take advantage of spring break, although family toon “Monsters vs. Aliens” opens in two weeks. Because of rolling school holidays, Hollywood can count on kids being out of school for the next five weeks on a staggered basis.

Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” continued to play to an older aud in its second weekend, evidenced by the 42% bump in business on Saturday.

Legendary financed half of the movie’s production budget of $150 million, while Paramount put in 25%. Warners financed the rest, although it is on the hook to Fox for a distribution fee and development costs Fox incurred when the project was there.

“Watchmen’s” 124 Imax runs continued to boost the bottom line and likely helped stem the pic’s overall decline, since Imax tickets cost more. Imax ticket sales fell off 58% to $2.3 million.

Warners said the film’s overall decline of 67% wasn’t unusual.

“This drop falls within the norm for big and highly anticipated movies,” Warners exec VP of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein said.

Pointing to several examples, Goldstein noted that “The Incredible Hulk” fell 60% in its second weekend after opening to $55.4 million. That film cumed $134.8 million domestically. “Sex and the City” fell 63% in its second frame on its way to cuming north of $150 million domestically.

Box office observers counter by saying that “Incredible Hulk” and “Sex and the City” were released in the summer. Snyder’s previous film “300,” which opened in March 2007, fell 54% in its second weekend.

Overseas, “Watchmen” held best in Australia, declining only 53% to $1.1 million. Many countries have an aversion to American superhero pics, although there are exceptions, including the “Spider-Man” franchise and “The Dark Knight.” So far, “Watchmen’s” perf at the international B.O. is considered soft.

In the U.K., “Marley and Me” beat “Watchmen” by more than a three-to-one margin as it opened to $6.5 million. The Fox comedy held well in Germany and France and tied for first in Russia. Film, still early in its run, sports a foreign cume of $51 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Gran Torino” had another good weekend at the foreign box office, grossing $11.4 million and enjoying the best Italian launch ever for an Eastwood film at $2.1 million. Pic is fast approaching the $200 million mark at the worldwide box office. Domestic cume is roughly $144 million, international $47.7 million, making for a total gross of $191.5 million.

The Weinstein Co.’s “The Reader” also continues to show legs, grossing $1.3 million for a domestic cume of $31.9 million. “Reader’s” foreign cume is north of $28 million as it continues to dominate in Germany.

Par’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is nearing the $200 million mark at the international box office alone, grossing $4 million for the weekend for a foreign cume of $195.8 million. Worldwide total is $322.3 million. Paramount also reported that “Revolutionary Road” has topped $50 million internationally, more than doubling its domestic total of $22.4 million.

Elsewhere at the foreign box office, Fox actioner “Dragonball: Evolution” grossed a hearty $10.1 million in eight Asian markets, led by a $3.4 million launch in China and a $3.3 million opening in Japan. The Chow Yun-Fat starrer opens domestically next month.

Disney’s “Confessions of a Shopaholic” grossed a respectable $6.1 million in 24 markets, lifting the comedy’s foreign cume to $41.8 million. Best numbers came from Australia, home to star Isla Fisher, with a $1.8 million opening, and a $1.4 million German launch. Pic has cumed $41.4 domestically for a worldwide tally of $83.2 million.

Sony’s domestic hit “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” saw moderate returns in its first openings outside the U.S. with $875,000 at 365 in five markets — most of that from $600,000 in Mexico, where U’s “The Unborn” led with $1.4 million.

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