Quiet weekend at the movies sees three-way race for cash

Hollywood is in photo-finish mode with three new movies bunched up tightly for the No. 1 spot during a sleepy weekend at the box office.

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood is in photo-finish mode with three new movies bunched up tightly for the No. 1 spot during a sleepy weekend at the box office.

Studio estimates Sunday put two movies in a tie for first-place with $13 million each: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena’s police story End of Watch and Jennifer Lawrence’s horror flick House at the End of the Street.

And right in the same ballpark was Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams’ baseball tale Trouble with the Curve, which opened with $12.7 million.

No matter which movie comes out on top, it was another slow weekend for Hollywood, whose business has been sluggish throughout late summer. Revenues were down for the fourth-straight weekend, with all three of the top new movies opening to modest crowds.

“This was a clash of the non-titans,” said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

“When three films are duking it out for the top spot with only around $13 million, that doesn’t represent a very strong period at the box office.”

Overall domestic revenues totalled $88 million, down 25 per cent from the same weekend last year, when a 3-D re-release of The Lion King led with $21.9 million, according to Hollywood.com.

The weekend’s other new wide release, Lionsgate’s sci-fi action tale Dredd, opened well down in the rankings at No. 6 with $6.3 million. The movie features Star Trek co-star Karl Urban as a law enforcer and executioner in a crime-laden city of the future.

Open Road Films’ End of Watch stars Gyllenhaal and Pena as partners patrolling the mean streets of LA. Relativity Media’s House at the End of the Street casts The Hunger Games star Lawrence as a youth who moves with her mom next door to a house where bloody misdeeds took place years earlier.

Trouble with the Curve, released by Warner Bros., stars Eastwood as an aging baseball scout whose daughter (Adams) accompanies him on his latest road trip.

Studios determine weekend estimates by counting Friday and Saturday ticket sales then projecting Sunday revenues based on how similar movies have played out in the past.

On rare occasions when the top movies are this close, the rankings sometimes change when Monday’s final numbers are released.

That has led to grousing among competitors that some studios might be inflating their Sunday estimates to gain No. 1 bragging rights, even if only for a day.

“I took the high road myself and put down the $12.7 million we reported,” said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros., where Eastwood has been based for decades. “I’ve got a major actor with a solid group of people in this movie, and I don’t want to eat crow on Monday.”

Other studios were tracking End of Watch and House at the End of the Street at a bit less than $13 million for the weekend, and some had “Trouble with the Curve” at No. 1 by a fraction.

“It’s unbelievably close. I honestly don’t remember ever seeing it this close, but we’re happy that we’re in the race,” said Kyle Davies, head of distribution for Relativity. “We think our estimate is on target.”

“We’ll see tomorrow. I think today everybody projected honourably and honestly,” said Tom Ortenberg, chief executive officer for Open Road Films.

“I think it’s fair to say that nobody’s sure who’s going to be No. 1.”

While audiences were not too excited about the new wide releases, Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment banner had big crowds in limited release for its teen drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The film took in $244,000 in four locations for a strong average of $61,000 a theatre. That compares to meagre averages ranging from $3,960 to $4,762 a theatre for Trouble with the Curve, House at the End of the Street and End of Watch, which all played in about 3,000 cinemas.

Perks features Harry Potter co-star Emma Watson alongside Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller in the story of a troubled high school freshman taken in by a clique of senior misfits.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released today.

1 (tie). End of Watch, $13 million.

1 (tie). House at the End of the Street, $13 million.

3. Trouble with the Curve, $12.7 million.

4. Finding Nemo, $9.4 million ($1.3 million international).

5. Resident Evil: Retribution, $6.7 million ($30.5 million international).

6. Dredd, $6.3 million.

7. The Master, $5 million.

8. The Possession, $2.6 million.

9. Lawless, $2.32 million.

10. ParaNorman, $2.3 million.



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