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B.O. continues slump; trio vies for top spot

In fourth straight losing frame, sales down roughly 25% from 2011

Make it a four-week losing streak at the domestic box office — and this weekend was a particular downer, off approximately 25% from the same frame in 2011.

A three-horse race among “End of Watch,” “House at the End of the Street” and “Trouble With the Curve,” all of which collected around $13 million through Sunday, couldn’t keep weekend totals from underperforming the modest pre-weekend projections.

However, B.O. was up just slightly over last weekend by roughly 5%.

Open Road’s “End of Watch” and “House,” from Relativity Media, tied with $13 million each, while Warner Bros. is estimating slightly less than that for “Curve,” at $12.7 million. “Watch” could eke out a win come Monday, depending on how well it finishes the weekend. Sunday football and the Emmys will be a distraction for some moviegoers, while evening box office doesn’t benefit from teens as much on a school night.

The frame’s fourth wide entry, Lionsgate’s “Dredd 3D,” struggled to keep up with the pack, grossing $6.3 million, behind two pics in their soph sesh: Disney’s “Finding Nemo” 3D, with $9.4 million (down 43%), and Sony-Screen Gems’ “Resident Evil: Retribution,” which fell a steep 68% for $6.7 million .

“Resident Evil” held much better overseas, down 39% — and that’s even with a high bar ($50 million) set last weekend internationally. The film did expand into a few new markets, including Mexico, where it grossed $3.5 million through Sunday.

Not quite masterful

The Weinstein Co.’s “The Master” performed decently during its wide-ish Stateside expansion, collecting $5 million. As expected, “Master” didn’t appeal as much in smaller cities; in fact, just 37 of the pic’s total 788 locations contributed more than $15,000 each this weekend, with approximately 20% of locations grossing less than $2,000.

A week after that pic’s record-setting per-screen performance, Summit’s coming-of-ager “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — at two locations in New York and L.A. each — followed with the distrib’s best-ever opening per and the fourth-highest so far this year, averaging $61,000.

“Perks,” which not surprisingly earned 60% of its overall estimated $244,000 from auds under 25, expands Stateside starting Friday.

Next weekend’s releases “Hotel Transylvania” and “Looper” could carry enough punch to break the box office’s losing streak. The same weekend last year set a fairly low bar: Warner’s modest family film “Dolphin Tale” won the 2011 weekend with just shy of $14 million.

‘Watch’ arrests more

While “House at the End of the Street” and “Trouble With the Curve” didn’t hit their marks — both were said to have a shot at a mid- to high-teens opening — “End of Watch” wound up doing better than pre-weekend projections of $8 million-$10 million. Moreover, “Watch” should come away from Sunday with decent results, based on how similar R-rated and Latino-targeted pics usually play that day.

“Frankly, we think there’s potential for a little bit of an upside,” said Open Road topper Tom Ortenberg, referring to the film’s eventual gross vs. the estimate.

Budgeted at $7 million, “End of Watch” received an overall A- CinemaScore rating. Pic, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as police officers in South Central L.A., scored 32% of its opening from Hispanic auds.

Though “Trouble With the Curve” came in on the soft side overall, the film drew solid results throughout the South and Midwest.

“It played to the norm in the West and then exploded on the East Coast,” noted Warner domestic distribution prexy Dan Fellman, adding that in Democratic-skewing regions, the film didn’t seem to be affected by star Clint Eastwood’s controversial RNC appearance last month. In New York City, for instance, “Curve” saw a massive 80% Friday-to-Saturday uptick, and in Washington, D.C., the film increased 44% after opening day.

Fellman said he expects the film to earn at least four times its opening, which would yield a $50 million-plus domestic cume. “I said to (the filmmakers), ‘Call this weekend a preview, because we’ll leg it out.'”

“House” certainly is positioned better than the comicbook adaptation “Dredd” — and represents a much lower financial risk, costing just under $10 million vs. $50 million for “Dredd.” But Lionsgate has limited exposure as a service deal with minimal P&A costs, according to the distrib. Both pics were given B CinemaScores and should collect decent coin in ancillary markets.

In a promising sign, “House” saw a much higher bump than expected on Saturday, said Relativity distrib exec Kyle Davies. “This type of film most often stays flat or goes down,” he noted.

Online chatter for “House” increased steadily from Friday to Saturday, drawing the most Twitter action of any of the new entries, according to Boxoffice.com.

Among the weekend’s specialty players, IFC’s docu “How to Survive a Plague” bowed at four Stateside engagements, averaging $7,000, while fashion doc “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” from Samuel Goldwyn Films and Epix, did even better, with an estimated $21,413 per at three locations.

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