Scorsese pic nabs top spot over 'Cop,' 'Crazies'

Paramount continued to scare off the competish at the domestic B.O. as Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” held onto the top spot in its soph sesh, taking an estimated $22.2 million at 3,003 engagements.

Frame’s wide releases, Warner Bros.’ buddy comedy “Cop Out,” starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, and Overture’s horror-thriller pic “The Crazies,” turned in solid perfs, with an estimated $18.6 million and $16.5 million, respectively.

Both films played well in urban areas despite harsh weather conditions on the East Coast, exceeding studio expectations in what was predicted to be a soft B.O. weekend.

At the specialty B.O., Sony Pictures Classics debuted its Oscar-nommed “A Prophet” with an estimated $170,354. Distrib will continue its steady rollout of the film, hoping to benefit from next Sunday’s Academy Awards.

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Avatar” continued to raise the benchmark as the all-time highest domestic earner with a $14 million weekend — down just 14% in its 11th frame — for a cume of $706.9 million. Sci-fi fantasy matched its Stateside prominence overseas, grossing an estimated $36.1 million at 6,535 screens in 70 markets. International cume stands at $1.8 billion for a worldwide total of $2.55 billion.

The weekend was a fiercely competitive frame as the top three grossers were all R-rated, male-skewing movies.

“Cop Out,” directed by fanboy auteur Kevin Smith, tells the story of a police office (Willis) whose rare baseball card is stolen and who enlists the help of his off-kilter partner (Morgan) to find it. Pic played best among males and those under 25, who accounted for more than 60% of its aud. “The Crazies” also played 65% to under-25s but had a more even split between men and women.

The remake of the 1973 George Romero pic, about small-town residents driven insane by a toxic water supply, is the latest installment in a host of Romero reboots, including “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) and “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). The later remake, released in 2004, opened to $26.7 million at 2,745.

Respectable earnings for “Crazies,” co-financed by Participant Media and Imagenation, could be a step in the right direction for Overture, as the distrib may be exploring management buyout options in the wake of parent company Liberty Media’s potential refinancing.

Top thriller entry “Shutter Island” dropped 46% in its soph sesh after debuting with $41.1 million — the highest opening ever for Scorsese and for star Leonardo DiCaprio.

Don Harris, exec VP of distribution for Par, described Scorsese as one of the “greatest living directors of our time” and credits the director as a main draw for auds. “Clearly, audiences like the movie, and they’re talking about it,” Harris added. “When (Scorsese) makes a movie, I think people are interested to see what he’s made.”

Distrib originally skedded the pic for a year-end release but changed dates in order to cut marketing costs and allow for an extended campaign. The move even allowed Par to promote the film during a montage sequence at the Golden Globes, where Scorsese was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Pic’s new date gave “Shutter Island” a relatively clear playing field, though that should come to an abrupt end with Disney’s launch of 3D pic “Alice in Wonderland” next week.

The frame’s top family-friendly film, Fox’s kidlit adaptation “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” held steady in its third week, slipping 36% for an estimated $9.8 million. Cume is $71.2 million.

Also entering their third frame, Warner’s “Valentine’s Day” and Universal’s “The Wolfman” earned an estimated $9.5 million and $4.1 million, respectively. “Valentine’s Day” fell 43% and has cumed $100.4 million, while “Wolfman” saw a drop of 58% for a total of $57.2 million.

Summit’s Roman Polanski mystery thriller “The Ghost Writer” earned an estimated $870,000 at 43 locations in its soph sesh, scoring the frame’s highest per-screen average of $20,233. Cume is $1.1 million.

In limited release, Samuel Goldwyn Films launched its long-delayed William Hurt starrer “The Yellow Handkerchief” to $42,000 at seven screens in New York and L.A. Road-trip drama, which co-stars Kristen Stewart and Maria Bello, will expand to the top 20 markets in the coming weeks.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “A Prophet” scored an impressive per-screen average of $18,928 at nine locations. Despite an Oscar nod, distrib may face an uphill battle given foreign-language films often have difficulty gaining much traction among U.S. auds. SPC’s other foreign-lingo Oscar contender, Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” has cumed $1.1 million since its limited release on Dec. 30.

“We feel that this is a foreign-language film that will have a strong response with younger audiences,” said Sony Classics distrib chief Tom Prassis of “A Prophet,” which will expand to 10 additional markets, including Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, next weekend.

Fox Searchlight continues to benefit from a successful Oscar push with “Crazy Heart,” starring nominees Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film earned $2.5 million at 1,148 playdates, slipping just 14% in its 11th frame for a cume of $25.1 million.

Overseas, “Shutter Island” saw a successful launch in France with $6.8 million at 522, enough to unseat “Avatar,” which earned $3.8 million at 449 in that territory. “Shutter Island” posted a total estimated international gross of $19 million for a cume of $34 million.

“Avatar” dropped only 25%. In Japan, the film grossed $4 million at 514 screens, having now topped the frame for 10 consecutive weeks in that territory, while in Germany, “Avatar” was down 38% in its 11th frame to claim $3.5 million at 455.

China became the film’s highest-grossing overseas market, totaling $176 million. Pic earned $3 million at 400 screens in its eighth frame.

Disney will roll out “Alice in Wonderland” in more than 40 territories repping approximately 60% of the international market this week, starting with Italy on Wednesday.

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