Weekend Box Office (August 13 - 15, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND In a battle of the sexes, Sylvester Stallone's testosterone-filled action flick The Expendables opened impressively at number one beating out the Julia Roberts globe-trotting drama Eat Pray Love which enjoyed a solid debut of its own in the number two spot. The teen offering Scott Pilgrim vs. The World flopped landing in fifth place in its first weekend of release while the overall marketplace was up versus last year despite being the first frame since October to not have any 3D movies in the Top Five.

Stallone became the first movie star to anchor number one openings in each of the past five decades thanks to The Expendables which bowed on top with $34.8M, according to final studio figures. The R-rated ultra-violent kill-a-thon averaged a muscular $10,650 from 3,270 theaters and drew in business by gathering together a massive number of action stars under one roof. Along with actor-director Stallone were Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, and Eric Roberts. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis also donated tiny cameo appearances and were heavily utilized in the marketing campaign which misled some.

But the opening was a strong one and ranked as the second best in company history for Lionsgate behind just Madea Goes to Jail which debuted to $41M last year. Adult men, not surprisingly, made up the main audience with 61% of the crowd being male and 60% being over 25. Expendables reportedly cost roughly $70M to produce and is expected to take in solid numbers overseas.

Julia Roberts anchored her first solo starring vehicle in many years and enjoyed a solid debut in second place with $23.1M for her new soul-searching drama Eat Pray Love. The Sony release, an adaptation of the best-selling book, averaged a sturdy $7,497 from 3,082 locations and beat out the studio's female offering from last August - Meryl Streep's Julie & Julia - which debuted to $20M on its way to $94.1M. Pray may not have the same legs though given its B CinemaScore grade, 4% Friday-to-Saturday dip, and weak reviews from critics. Julie scored a potent A CinemaScore, surged 17% on Saturday, and was well-liked by reviewers, even earning Streep a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Still, Eat held its own against the heavy artillery from Stallone and company. Studio research indicated that the audience was mostly older women with 72% being female and 56% being over 35. Produced for nearly $60M, the Julia Roberts vehicle drew in fans of the book as well as women pulled in by the lead's starpower. Supporting turns by Javier Bardem and James Franco added a bit too.

Sony claimed the number three spot as well with last weekend's big winner The Other Guys which dropped 51% to $17.4M. The Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg action-comedy has banked $70M in ten days and looks headed for a $110-120M finish. Spending its fifth weekend in the top five, Christopher Nolan's Inception dropped 39% to $11.3M putting the cume close to the quarter-billion mark at $248.5M. On Monday, the Warner Bros. smash will break $250M after 32 days of release.

Universal was hoping to score a hit with teens and the comic book crowd with its Michael Cera pic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World but instead was met with disappointing results with a $10.6M debut. The PG-13 pic based on the graphic novel series averaged just $3,765 from 2,818 locations and failed to appeal to moviegoers outside of those familiar with the source material. Scott performed a bit below Cera's 2008 film Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist which debuted to $11.3M and a $4,672 average showing that the young actor still hasn't reached a point where he can open a picture on his own.

With another slim decline of only 25%, Universal's hit 3D toon Despicable Me grossed $7M upping the solid tally to $222.2M. After posting the lowest opening weekend of the franchise, Step Up 3D suffered the highest sophomore drop tumbling 56% to $6.9M for a ten-day take of $29.8M. The first two installments of the dance series witnessed declines of 51% and 49% in the second frame. Despite higher 3D ticket prices, this Buena Vista pic should end up with roughly $45M which would be a new low for the franchise too.

Angelina Jolie's Salt placed ninth with $6.2M, off 43%, giving Sony $103.4M to date and its third summer release in the century club. Paramount's comedy Dinner for Schmucks followed with $6.3M, down 39%, for a decent $58.8M sum. The Cats & Dogs sequel fell 39% to $4.2M for a $35.2M total for Warner Bros.

The top ten films grossed $127.8M which was up 7% from last year when District 9 opened in the top spot with $37.4M; and up 20% from 2008 when Tropic Thunder stayed at number one with $25.8M.

Compared to projections, The Expendables opened ahead of my $30M forecast while Eat Pray Love was very close to my $22M prediction. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World debuted below my $18M projection.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Be sure to check the chart for the top August openings of all-time. For a review of The Other Guys visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Nanny McPhee Returns, Piranha 3D, Lottery Ticket, Vampires Suck, and The Switch all open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Aug 13 - 15 Aug 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Expendables $ 34,825,135 3,270 1 $ 10,650 $ 34,825,135 Lionsgate
2 Eat Pray Love 23,104,523 3,082 1 7,497 23,104,523 Sony
3 The Other Guys 17,408,501 35,543,162 -51.0 3,651 2 4,768 69,951,822 Sony
4 Inception 11,285,051 18,505,470 -39.0 3,120 5 3,617 248,469,482 Warner Bros.
5 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World 10,609,795 2,818 1 3,765 10,609,795 Universal
6 Despicable Me 6,971,355 9,283,360 -24.9 2,923 6 2,385 222,197,390 Universal
7 Step Up 3D 6,905,201 15,812,311 -56.3 2,439 2 2,831 29,844,422 Buena Vista
8 Dinner for Schmucks 6,285,179 10,375,397 -39.4 3,046 3 2,063 58,785,547 Paramount
9 Salt 6,219,502 10,908,204 -43.0 2,834 4 2,195 103,438,273 Sony
10 Cats & Dogs: The Revenge... 4,190,426 6,902,116 -39.3 2,728 3 1,536 35,218,937 Warner Bros.
11 Toy Story 3 2,222,731 3,119,088 -28.7 1,219 9 1,823 400,824,826 Buena Vista
12 Charlie St. Cloud 2,113,930 4,700,490 -55.0 2,083 3 1,015 28,758,460 Universal
13 The Kids Are All Right 1,352,585 2,597,177 -47.9 830 6 1,630 16,721,391 Focus
14 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse 1,279,650 2,290,262 -44.1 1,212 7 1,056 295,842,444 Summit
15 Grown Ups 1,140,893 2,407,379 -52.6 968 8 1,179 158,054,590 Sony
16 The Sorcerer's Apprentice 1,120,604 2,361,228 -52.5 989 5 1,133 59,538,764 Buena Vista
17 Ramona and Beezus 833,589 1,617,123 -48.5 632 4 1,319 23,335,273 Fox
18 The Karate Kid 518,156 612,692 -15.4 345 10 1,502 174,861,447 Sony
19 Get Low 376,781 219,124 71.9 53 3 7,109 826,013 Sony Classics
20 The Girl Who Played With Fire 364,484 471,459 -22.7 165 6 2,209 6,577,296 Music Box
Top 5 $ 97,233,005 $ 54,048,632 79.9
Top 10 127,804,668 107,330,020 19.1
Top 20 139,128,071 127,726,042 8.9
Top 20 vs. 2009 139,128,071 137,078,149 1.5

Last Updated: August 16, 2010 at 5:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.