Audiences elect ‘Payne’ over ‘W.’

'Bees,' 'Chihuahua' in the running for 2nd place

Fox’s Mark Wahlberg crime actioner “Max Payne” led the Friday box office with $7.1 million, however, auds didn’t vote out Oliver Stone’s presidential biopic “W.” which outperformed expectations with an estimated $3.8 million.

Playing at 2,030 theaters, “W.,” starring Josh Brolin as George W. Bush, remains an anomaly since most movies about the commander-in-chief are typically released after a politician has left office. Stone’s last presidential pic, 1995’s “Nixon” was released 21 years after Richard Nixon served.

With a theater count of 3,376, “Max Payne” will continue to have a clear shot at number one throughout the weekend. However, it could be a close race between “W,” Fox Searchlight’s “The Secret Life of Bees” and Disney’s “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” “Chihuahua” looks to profit from weekend matinees.

“Bees,” based on the best selling book, ranked third yesterday with $3.6 million off 1,591 while Disney’s “Chihuahua” took fourth with $3.05 million from 3,239. In its third Friday, “Chihuahua” was down 33% with a current B.O. of $60.9 million.

Most of the video game pic adaptations that have played in the fall, i.e. Screen Gems’ “Resident Evil” and Fox’s “Hitman,” were R-rated making “Payne” an exception with its PG-13 rating. “Payne’s” bow bested the first day of last autumn’s “Hitman” ($4.4 million) however fell below the first Fridays of 2004’s “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” and 2007’s “Resident Evil: Extinction.” Both installments posted an opening day above $9 million and a three day frame north of $23 million.

The opening for “W.” is in sync with Stone’s previous pics ranking third behind 2006’s “World Trade Center” ($4.5 million) and 2004’s “Alexander” ($4 million). Both were Wednesday bows. “World Trade Center” is Stone’s highest opener having generated $18.7 million over its three-day frame and $26.5 million in its first five days.

DreamWorks’ action-thriller “Eagle Eye” distributed by Paramount grossed $2.3 million in fifth from 3,326, moving its domestic cume to $76.2 million in the midst of its fourth frame.

Summit Entertainment’s R-rated teenage comedy “Sex Drive” opened in eighth with $1.3 million at 2,421.

Among yesterday’s top theater averages, Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” distributed by Miramax charted a per site of $3,144 or $28,000. Pic saw a 52% spike in its second Friday after upping its theaters from four to nine, bringing its eight-day cume to $137,441. Sony Classics’ “Rachel Getting Married” posted $2,577 per theater or $183,000 at 71 theaters in its third Friday. The domestic B.O. to date for the Jonathan Demme film is $1.2 million. Oscilloscope’s doc “Frontrunners” about the student council race at New York City’s Stuyvesant High School grabbed $2,086 from one Gotham playdate.

Other limited fare that unspooled included Disney’s sailing doc “Morning Light” which took in $64,000 at 55 locales and Magnolia’s Hollywood comedy “What Just Happened?” directed by Barry Levinson which made $57,000 from 36 runs.