Sony/Screen Gems' actioner helps break B.O. slump; Weinstein drama headed for $180K per location

On the first weekend bouncing back from the post-summer slump, Sony/Screen Gems’ fifth “Resident Evil” entry is slaying the competition with $8.4 million domestically Friday, while Weinstein Co.’s modest rollout of buzz bringer “The Master” is expected to destroy the per screen average record set earlier this year by Focus’ “Moonrise Kingdom.”

Resident Evil: Retribution” started to a modest $665,000 at Thursday midnight screenings, low relative to big ticket summer actioners but right in line with more recent late night bows. Three-day estimates are more or less the same as they were Thursday with “Retribution” closing in on $22 million or $23 million, comparable to numerous prior “Resident Evil” installments.

Meanwhile, smaller in scale but huge in magnitude, Weinstein’s “The Master” took $242,000 Friday at five locations, setting it on course for a three-day per screen average of $180,000 through Sunday. By comparison, the reigning champ — Wes Anderson-helmed “Moonrise Kingdom” — set the record with $130,752 earlier this year. Thus, if “Master” stays the course, it will seize the specialty kingdom from “Moonrise.”

Helmed by Paul Thomas Anderson and toplining Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams, “Master” is the first buzzy pic playing Toronto fest to open domestically in theaters.

Disney’s 3D “Finding Nemo” reissue is getting close to the studio’s expectations for the weekend, but underperforming the expectations of most insiders. At $5.1 million Friday, it isn’t likely to meet the Mouse’s $20 million projection, and it is far shy of pre-weekend estimates that had it in the $30 million range.

When it first opened in 2003, “Nemo” broke $20 million on its first day to go on and earn $70.3 million that weekend and $339.7 million over its lifetime. The 3D iteration won’t reach anything like those heights, but for a stereoscopic conversion that cost less than $5 million, Disney won’t need it to.

Familiar faces lower at the weekend B.O. include Lionsgate’s “The Possession” in third with $1.8 million, Weinstein’s “Lawless” in fourth with $1.4 million and CBS Films’ “The Words” in fifth just shy of $1 million.

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