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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

weekend box office: ‘Lakeview Terrace’ better than subprime

My head is so preoccupied with sheer terror and sputtering anger over this Wall Street bailout fiasco that it’s hard for me to focus on box office numbers today, which are positively puny when stacked up next to $700 billion or $1.8 trillion. But here they are:

1. Lakeview Terrace: $15.6 million (NEW)
2. Burn After Reading: $11.3 million (dropping 41% in its 2nd week)
3. My Best Friend’s Girl: $8.3 million (NEW)
4. Igor: $8 million (NEW)
5. Righteous Kill: $7.7 million (dropping 53% in its 2nd week)
I have to wonder whether Lakeview Terrace hit some sort of tender spot in the zeitgeist at the moment: not one about racism but one about mortgage terror. What happens when you take on a mortgage in a plunging market and then are stuck with it? It’s perhaps notable that one character in the film, when informed of the difficulties the young couple are having with their new neighbor, suggests that they put the house back on the market, even if they have to take a loss on it. It’s dismissed by the couple without any discussion. It’s also notable that the person who suggested this, the wife’s father, is clearly much better off, financially, than his daughter and her husband are. That’s an economic reality that many, many GenXers, as the couple in the film are, will recognize.

Overall, though, the top slate doesn’t look so good compared to this time last year, when Resident Evil: Extinction took in $23.7 million and Good Luck Chuck took in $13.7 million, both over their opening weekends. Perhaps last weekend’s celebrating over the improving box office was premature.

Small, Oscar-baiting releases did well, though. The Keira Knightley costume drama The Duchess (my review is coming soon) had the best per-screen average of the weekend: $29,000 on each of seven screens. Ed Harris’s sophomore project as director, the Western Appaloosa (ditto on the review), was second, earning $18,429 on each of 14 screens. In third place was Walking on Dead Fish, a documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which earned $9,500 on one screen. For comparison’s sake, Lakeview Terrace’s per-screen was $6,331.

Dark Knight update: After what will probably be its last weekend in the Top 10 (it was No. 9 this weekend, and took in a little under $3 million), where it’s been for 10 weeks, The Dark Knight has a total cumulative tally in North America of $522 million. Let us note that as extreme as that number is, it is not $700 billion.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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