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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

weekend box office: ‘Burn After Reading’ is hottest of them all

You can almost hear the sighs of relief emanating from Hollywood. This weekend, traffic at the multiplexes picked up after a long stretch of historic slowdowns worse than those we usually see at the end of summer. But even with summerlike weather across much of the country this weekend and Hurricane Ike keeping a huge portion of the Gulf Coast otherwise engaged, the first weekend of the fall movie season looked good:

1. Burn After Reading: $19.4 million
2. Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys: $18 million
3. Righteous Kill: $16.5 million
4. The Women: $10.1 million
5. The House Bunny: $4.3 million
Overall, this was all much better than this time last year when a weak The Brave One topped an even weaker slate. It’s probably safe to say that star power drove this weekend: nonstop TV ads for Burn After Reading played up its big names including Brad Pitt and George Clooney (as well as its goofy sense of humor), and surely it was the promise of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro together on the same screen that drew most of the crowds for Righteous Kill.

And so the Coen Brothers got their biggest opening yet with Burn, and the 16th biggest September opening ever. Ironically, however, even with an impressive $18 million at the No. 2 spot, Family was Tyler Perry’s second worst opening yet. Family didn’t screen for critics, but Perry’s movie rarely do and still perform well, so we can’t blame the lack of reviews for this one’s stumbling (though, to be fair, it stumbled only a bit).

But let’s talk bad: Proud American — the IMAX propaganda flick I highlighted last week — enjoyed, if that’s the word, the worst opening ever for a wide release, scraping up $135,000 on 750 screens. That’s a per-screen average of $180. From what I’ve seen of it, it couldn’t have happened to a more worthy movie.

Best per-screen of the week went to the new Alan Ball drama Towelhead, which earned $13,250 on each of its four screens. Other indies, foreign films, and limited releases didn’t look so hot, though, and the next closest per-screens were for top films The Family That Preys ($8,705 at each of 2,070 venues) and Burn After Reading ($7,319 at each of 2,651 venues). We’ll probably see more weekends like this now, with many “quality” films going into wide release and not being relegated to arthouses in a few big cities.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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