Weekend Box Office (August 20 - 22, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The arrival of five new enemies didn't stop Sylvester Stallone and his band of mercenaries from topping the North American box office with their action hit The Expendables. A variety of new titles were met with weak to moderate results as the end-of-summer funk dragged the marketplace down to its worst showing of the season.

Despite the expected large decline, The Expendables still ruled the charts with $17M in its second mission falling an understandable 51% from its muscular debut, according to final studio figures. The R-rated kill-a-thon has pulled in an impressive $65.4M in ten days and looks headed for the $100M mark. It was the first time in 17 years that Stallone spent back-to-back weekends at number one with a live-action film. 1993's Demolition Man was his last. Expendables did, however, post the second lowest gross this year for a number one film beating just the $15.4M of How to Train Your Dragon in its fifth weekend over the April 23-25 frame.

For Stallone, who at 64 is witnessing a career resurgence, Expendables will outgun the $42.8M of 2008's Rambo and the $70.3M of 2006's Rocky Balboa. He directed and starred in all three. While the last two films relied on well-known characters to attract business, Lionsgate's Expendables used the starpower of an army of action heroes to grab audience attention. It could become Stallone's first film in a lead role to break $100M since 1985's Rocky IV.

Leading the five-pack of new releases was the spoof comedy Vampires Suck which debuted to $12.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $18.6M over the five days since its Wednesday launch. Crucified by critics, the Fox release managed a mild $3,774 average over the weekend but with a very wide opening in 3,233 locations, was able to slide into the number two spot. The PG-13 pic actually debuted at number one on Wednesday before falling to third on Thursday after the upfront teen audience had already come out. Suck, which makes fun of the Twilight saga plus other pop culture favorites of the moment, earned some of the worst reviews of any film this year.

Julia Roberts took third place with her Italy-India-Bali travelfest Eat Pray Love which dropped 48% in its second weekend to $12.1M and $47.2M in ten days. Produced for about $60M, the Sony release is headed for the vicinity of $75M from North America which would make it the highest-grossing live-action film for the actress in a lead role since 2001's America's Sweethearts which grossed $93.3M nine summers ago.

Debuting to solid results in fourth was the comedy Lottery Ticket which grossed $10.7M from 1,973 theaters for a good $5,399 average - the best for any wide film. The Warner Bros. release enjoyed the second best opening among the new films despite having the fewest theaters. Starring Bow Wow, the PG-13 pic attracted lackluster reviews. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg fell to fifth with the action-comedy The Other Guys which took in $10.2M, off 42%, for a $88.3M total in 17 days. The Sony release will break $100M before Labor Day weekend.

Close behind with a $10.1M opening was the horror remake Piranha 3D which averaged a decent $4,092 from 2,470 sites. The R-rated Weinstein Co. release won strong reviews and connected with an audience that had no other scary films to see. Still it did not come close to last year's late-August horror pics The Final Destination (which also had higher 3D ticket prices) and Halloween 2 which opened against each other with $27.4M and $16.3M, respectively.

Opening softly in seventh place was the Jennifer Aniston-Jason Bateman artificial insemination comedy The Switch which bowed to $8.4M. The Buena Vista release averaged $4,193 from 2,012 theaters and attracted mixed reviews.

Family audiences showed little interest in the Emma Thompson sequel Nanny McPhee Returns which debuted to $8.4M from 2,784 theaters for a weak $3,020 average. Despite today's higher ticket prices, the average was less than half of the $7,270 that the first McPhee generated in January 2006 when it bowed to $14.5M. But the $35M Returns has already grossed $62.9M overseas from its international release which began in March. Reviews were generally good.

Inception took a dive down to number nine but its weekend gross slipped only 31% - the lowest for any wide release - to $7.8M. Total for Warner Bros. stands at $262M putting the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer at number 50 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. Rounding out the top ten was Universal's comic disappointment Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which dropped 51% to $5.2M for a weak ten-day tally of $20.9M. The verbal love from fans is not translating into box office sales. The final domestic take for the $60M production should reach only $30-35M.

Among the major summer hits outside of the top ten, new totals include $403.8M for Toy Story 3 which has edged out Spider-Man for number nine on the all-time list, $297.2M for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse which has surpassed New Moon, $237.7M for Shrek Forever After, $231.1M for Despicable Me, $159M for Grown Ups, $130.1M for The Last Airbender, and $109.9M for Salt.

The top ten films grossed $102.1M which was off 4% from last year when Inglourious Basterds opened in the top spot with $38.1M; but up 24% from 2008 when Tropic Thunder remained at number one with $16.3M.

Compared to projections, Vampires Suck and Piranha 3D both opened a bit above my respective forecasts of $10M and $9M. Lottery Ticket and The Switch both debuted ahead of my $7M and $5M predictions while Nanny McPhee Returns bowed well below my $11M projection.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter. 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 Avatar: Special Edition, The Last Exorcism, and Takers all open.

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

# Title Aug 20 - 22 Aug 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Expendables $ 16,968,032 $ 34,825,135 -51.3 3,270 2 $ 5,189 $ 65,357,117 Lionsgate
2 Vampires Suck 12,202,831 3,233 1 3,774 18,566,733 Fox
3 Eat Pray Love 12,111,162 23,104,523 -47.6 3,082 2 3,930 47,214,078 Sony
4 Lottery Ticket 10,652,297 1,973 1 5,399 10,652,297 Warner Bros.
5 The Other Guys 10,163,337 17,408,501 -41.6 3,472 3 2,927 88,253,482 Sony
6 Piranha 3D 10,106,872 2,470 1 4,092 10,106,872 Weinstein Co.
7 The Switch 8,436,713 2,012 1 4,193 8,436,713 Buena Vista/Maple
8 Nanny McPhee Returns 8,407,685 2,784 1 3,020 8,407,685 Universal
9 Inception 7,838,179 11,285,051 -30.5 2,401 6 3,265 262,031,594 Warner Bros.
10 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World 5,201,970 10,609,795 -51.0 2,820 2 1,845 20,898,255 Universal
11 Despicable Me 4,662,065 6,971,355 -33.1 2,236 7 2,085 231,056,990 Universal
12 Dinner for Schmucks 3,520,805 6,285,179 -44.0 2,149 4 1,638 65,800,919 Paramount
13 Salt 3,410,012 6,219,502 -45.2 1,794 5 1,901 109,895,105 Sony
14 Step Up 3D 3,150,401 6,905,201 -54.4 1,592 3 1,979 36,868,951 Buena Vista
15 Cats & Dogs: The Revenge... 1,701,134 4,190,426 -59.4 1,580 4 1,077 39,660,611 Warner Bros.
16 Toy Story 3 1,523,124 2,222,731 -31.5 730 10 2,086 403,803,642 Buena Vista
17 The Kids Are All Right 818,213 1,352,585 -39.5 404 7 2,025 18,239,725 Focus
18 Get Low 713,794 376,781 89.4 146 4 4,889 1,697,877 Sony Classics
19 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse 566,864 1,279,650 -55.7 557 8 1,018 297,216,798 Summit
20 The Sorcerer's Apprentice 476,035 1,120,604 -57.5 472 6 1,009 60,605,526 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 62,097,659 $ 97,233,005 -36.1
Top 10 102,089,078 127,804,668 -20.1
Top 20 122,631,525 139,128,071 -11.9
Top 20 vs. 2009 122,631,525 120,818,391 1.5

Last Updated: August 23, 2010 at 5:45PM ET

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