Lionsgate actioner stays strong into second frame

(Article updated Sunday, August 22, 7 p.m.)

In its second outing, Lionsgate’s guy gang pic “The Expendables” broke through a crowded frame of new entries, claiming the top spot again at the domestic B.O., with an estimated $16.5 million at 3,270 locations.

Among pics opening over the weekend, 20th Century Fox’s parody “Vampires Suck,” from New Regency, fared best, with an estimated three-day figure of $12.2 million.

Fox released the pic Wednesday, hoping to get a head start over the competish and take advantage of a more robust midweek summer play period. Five-day estimates reached a healthy $18.7 million at 3,233 engagements.

Overall, the frame saw less bite than the same weekend last year, down 4%, as the Weinstein Co. debuted “Inglourious Basterds” with $38.1 million a year ago.

Warner Bros.’ “Lottery Ticket” bowed in the No. 4 spot, with an estimated $11.1 million at 1,973 locations, behind Sony’s femme-driven holdover “Eat Pray Love,” which placed third with $12 million and a drop of 48%.

The three remaining debut pics all landed in the frame’s bottom half, led by Dimension’s “Piranha 3D,” with the Weinstein Co. distribbing. It earned an estimated $10 million at 2,470 locations, of which 2,202 were 3D-equipped; the format contributed a whopping 95% of the film’s weekend take.

Nanny McPhee Returns,” which bowed considerably lower than Universal’s first “Nanny” offering ($14.5 million), earned $8.3 million at 2,784 playdates.

And while Disney/Miramax’s Jennifer Aniston-Jason Bateman starrer “The Switch” exceeded studio expectations, with an estimated $8.3 million at 2,012 locations, the film still debuted lower than other preggers-themed fare — the most recent, CBS Films’ “The Back-Up Plan,” bowed in April with $12.2 million.

In limited release, Roadside Attractions’ “Winter’s Bone” crossed $5 million domestically, adding an estimated $210,900 on 131 locations for a per-screen average of $1,610. “Bone,” which has held steady at more than 100 locations for seven weeks, joins several festival titles this year that have seen profitable runs, including Focus Features’ “The Kids Are All Right” and Fox Searchlight’s “Cyrus.”

“Expendables” also landed on top in the U.K., where the film ended a five-week consecutive winning streak for Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” beating the 3D toon with $5.7 million including previews. “Toy Story 3″ managed to claim an estimated $3.1 million there, down just 37% from last weekend.

Toon’s international cume totals $580.6 million, and with domestic figures reaching $403.7 million, global B.O. receipts stand at a whopping $984.3 million. “Toy Story 3″ is expected to reach the $1 billion benchmark in the coming weeks, which would make it only the seventh title to do so.

While overall domestic revenues were down vs. last year, the frame’s top players still contributed to a higher-than-usual take during the late-summer period when younger auds typically go back to school. This weekend ranks second compared to the same frame over the past six years.

With its weekend perf boosting domestic totals to a solid $64.9 million, “Expendables” could not have come at a better time for Lionsgate, especially with Carl Icahn circling the company for a possible takeover.

“Expendables” is only the second Lionsgate title to claim the top spot during its first two weeks of release; Tyler Perry’s “Madea Goes to Jail” (2009) was the first.

Lionsgate distrib topper David Spitz credited helmer-star Sylvester Stallone, who also co-wrote the film, as the driving force behind its success. “When you look back at his career, it’s pretty unbelievable that this guy is still doing it,” Spitz said.

Last weekend, “Expendables” topped the frame with $34.8 million, wooing a significant female contingency to beat “Eat Pray Love,” which debuted with $23.1 million. This weekend also marks a notable win for “Expendables” in the demo derby, as some of the frame’s new entries targeted similar crowds. Meanwhile, “Vampires Suck” drew an overwhelming 72% of moviegoers age 21 and under, with a relatively even split between men (45%) and women (55%).

“When you’re spoofing ‘Twilight,’ which targets young women, young men also came because it’s a parody of something they could really care less about,” said Fox senior VP of domestic distribution Bert Livingston.

“Vampires” is the fourth collaboration between helming partners Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer; 2006’s “Date Movie” is the pair’s best performer so far, opening with $19.1 million for a cume of $48.5 million. “Vampires” is only the duo’s second film to get a summer release, after 2008’s disappointing “Disaster Movie,” which debuted with $5.8 million and totaling just $14.2 million domestically.

Rated PG-13, “Vampires” scored an overall C+ CinemaScore rating but came in higher (B rating) with those 18 and under.

Both “Nanny McPhee Returns” and “Lottery Ticket” scored an A- rating, though U’s “Nanny” failed to capitalize much on early positive word of mouth. Still, budgeted at approximately $35 million, pic will likely turn a profit given its international success to date. “Nanny” began its overseas rollout in late March-early April and since has cumed $62.9 million internationally.

“Of course, we wish it would have done a little bit better here,” said U prexy of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco. “But the whole idea with this production was with the international market in mind.”

Warner’s “Lottery Ticket” played tops in major urban markets including Atlanta, where auds shelled out 11% of the pic’s weekend gross, compared to the usual 5% share for any given film, Warner noted.

Jeff Goldstein, exec VP of domestic distribution for Warner, said the film’s debut relied on overperforming in metropolises like New York and Washington, D.C.

“When you distribute niche movies like this, you really have to be surgical in your choice of markets and theaters in those markets,” he said.

“Lottery Ticket,” toplining Bow Wow and Ice Cube, drew an overwhelmingly African-American aud (88%), with smaller shares among Latino and Caucasian moviegoers.

Meanwhile, men contributed 57% of the aud for “Piranha 3D,” the first 3D release for the Weinstein Co., with 89% of the pic’s total location count in 3D. Pic will have to vie for 3D screens next week with Fox’s re-release of “Avatar,” followed by Sony’s “Resident Evil: Afterlife” on Sept. 10.

Disney/Miramax’s “The Switch” earned the majority of its take from women, who repped two-thirds of its aud. And while “Switch” fell behind the weekend’s other wide releases, Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane said the film played better than some higher-grossing titles in major markets.

Still, despite a B CinemaScore rating and recent publicity between Aniston and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, “Switch” was unable to best a glut of other pregnancy-themed pics, including “The Back-Up Plan” and U’s “Baby Mama,” which debuted with $17.4 million in 2008.

Oscilloscope launched docu “A Film Unfinished” at four U.S. locations, earning an estimated $37,000 for a per-screen average of $9,375. Docu bowed Wednesday at two sold-out New York locations, lifting the film’s five-day totals to $51,220. Oscilloscope plans to expand the pic wide starting Sept. 24.

Also in limited release, IFC’s German-lingo pic “Soul Kitchen” about a bar owner who struggles to keep his restaurant open. Pic grossed an estimated $20,120 at two locations, averaging $10,060 per screen.

Most Stateside wide releases held this weekend in overseas markets. Fox’s “Vampires Suck,” however, launched in smaller Asian and European markets, including top territory Sweden, where the pic posted an estimated $302,767 on 32 screens. “Vampires” drew little blood overall, with an estimted $756,000 at foreign wickets.

Instead, Warner’s holdover giant “Inception” continued to perform, posting an estimated $21.5 million on 6,550 screens in 59 markets for a cume of $357.7 million. Pic’s top market was France, where it dropped only 33% in its fifth frame, with $2.5 million and a local cume of $31.6 million. Germany followed with $1.9 million in its fourth outing, bringing the film’s cume there to $26.7 million.

Sony’s action holdover “Salt” also proved its worth overseas, adding $17.8 million to overall foreign totals of $106.4 million. “Salt” saw four No. 1 openings this weekend, including Australia. In Oz, the film debuted with an estimated $3.7 million, while Blighty auds shelled out $3.4 million.

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