Weekend Box Office (September 10 - 12, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The 3D zombie sequel Resident Evil: Afterlife easily topped the North American box office on its opening frame leading a sluggish marketplace that delivered the worst ticket sales in over two years. Grossing more than the next six films combined, the R-rated action pic from Sony's Screen Gems unit debuted to $26.7M, according to final studio figures, helped of course by 3D surcharges. The fourth in the successful line of Milla Jovovich films averaged a muscular $8,320 from 3,203 theaters outgunning the $23.7M of the last film in the series, 2007's Resident Evil: Extinction, which was the previous franchise high. Admissions remained mostly the same with just over three million tickets sold.

Shot in 3D and offering a popular brand and formula, Afterlife attracted fans that have enjoyed the film series and video game over the years. According to studio research, 58% of the crowd was male while those over and under 25 were about even. Over 2,000 of the playdates offered 3D screens including 141 digital IMAX venues charging as much as $18 per ticket. Facing zero competition thanks to a mix of no new wide releases and aging holdovers made the newest Alice flick the only game in town. Afterlife also generated the seventh best September opening ever and was not screened in advance for critics.

Overseas, the zombie pic was a big hit pulling in an impressive $45.5M which was two-and-a-half times bigger than the openings of the last Evil film in the same markets. Leading the way were Japan with a massive $15.5M and Russia with $9.5M. Afterlife was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson who has plenty of experience in bringing video game fun to the big screen having helmed 1995's Mortal Kombat, 2004's Alien vs. Predator, and 2002's original Resident Evil.

Sony and Screen Gems seized second place too with the hit heist pic Takers which held its position with $5.7M dropping by 48%. After 17 days, the PG-13 film has taken in an impressive $47.7M and could be headed north of $60M which nobody thought was possible just a few weeks ago.

Following its mild Labor Day debut which was good enough for the top spot, George Clooney's assassin drama The American declined by a disturbing 57% to $5.7M for a 12-day total of $28.1M. It was the second highest drop for any film in the top ten and was especially large for a film that caters to an older crowd that typically doesn't rush out on the first weekend. Add in the fact that American's Wednesday launch meant its opening weekend gross did not include the opening day tally and the fact that no new films targeting its mature adult audience opened this weekend and the 57% fall becomes quite troubling. It can only be attributed to poor word-of-mouth. A final of $38-40M could result.

The Mexploitation actioner Machete fell a sharp 62% in its second weekend to $4.3M for Fox. After ten days, the Robert Rodriguez film has cut up $20.9M - about even with the film that inspired it, 2007's Grindhouse, which dropped by 63% in its sophomore frame with $4.3M and $19.8M in ten days. The double feature ended with $25M and Machete should end a bit above the same amount.

The rest of the top ten was filled with summer holdovers that finished in a tight range within $1M of each other. Fifth place went to the R-rated romantic comedy Going the Distance which dropped a moderate 45% in its second weekend to $3.8M. The ten-day total for Warner Bros. is only $14M and a $22-24M final is likely. Will Ferrell's latest hit The Other Guys fell just 37% to $3.3M bumping Sony's cume to $112.4M.

A pair of Lionsgate titles followed. The fright flick The Last Exorcism grossed $3.3M, off 55%, and has scared up $38.1M to date. Sylvester Stallone's action flick The Expendables inched closer to the century club with $3.2M, down 51%, for a $98.5M total.

Eat Pray Love placed ninth with $2.9M, down 39%, and a $74.7M sum for Sony which had four films in the top ten. Spending its ninth weekend in the top ten, the sci-fi thriller Inception slipped 39% to $2.8M giving Warner Bros. $282.2M thus far. Surpassing $290M should be easy but reaching $300M seems unlikely without some sort of re-release.

The top ten films grossed $61.7M which was down 14% from last year when I Can Do Bad All By Myself opened in the top spot with $23.4M; and down 25% from 2008 when Burn After Reading debuted at number one with $19.1M.

Compared to projections, Resident Evil: Afterlife opened close to my $25M forecast.

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

Be sure to check the UPDATED chart for the top September openings of all-time. For a NEW review of I'm Still Here visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Devil, The Town, Easy A, and Alpha and Omega all open.

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

# Title Sep 10 - 12 Sep 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Resident Evil: Afterlife $ 26,650,264 3,203 1 $ 8,320 $ 26,650,264 Sony
2 Takers 5,675,611 10,876,732 -47.8 2,191 3 2,590 47,680,783 Sony
3 The American 5,674,240 13,177,790 -56.9 2,833 2 2,003 28,111,358 Focus
4 Machete 4,294,120 11,416,164 -62.4 2,678 2 1,603 20,916,709 Fox
5 Going the Distance 3,788,222 6,884,964 -45.0 3,030 2 1,250 13,952,322 Warner Bros.
6 The Other Guys 3,347,995 5,287,889 -36.7 2,246 6 1,491 112,442,408 Sony
7 The Last Exorcism 3,322,853 7,341,976 -54.7 2,731 3 1,217 38,062,322 Lionsgate
8 The Expendables 3,223,651 6,620,133 -51.3 3,058 5 1,054 98,466,264 Lionsgate
9 Eat Pray Love 2,928,256 4,800,758 -39.0 2,339 5 1,252 74,660,964 Sony
10 Inception 2,802,390 4,572,249 -38.7 1,583 9 1,770 282,211,978 Warner Bros.
11 Nanny McPhee Returns 2,080,315 3,533,925 -41.1 2,364 4 880 26,281,045 Universal
12 The Switch 2,001,103 3,119,557 -35.9 1,595 4 1,255 25,005,832 Buena Vista/Maple
13 Despicable Me 1,657,100 2,984,015 -44.5 1,375 10 1,205 243,531,970 Universal
14 Vampires Suck 1,480,909 3,196,167 -53.7 1,670 4 887 35,082,853 Fox
15 Lottery Ticket 1,206,043 2,151,388 -43.9 905 4 1,333 22,613,669 Warner Bros.
16 Get Low 864,834 1,204,465 -28.2 529 7 1,635 6,912,937 Sony Classics
17 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World 820,140 1,553,475 -47.2 619 5 1,325 30,438,315 Universal
18 Toy Story 3 761,996 1,944,801 -60.8 712 13 1,070 409,976,037 Buena Vista
19 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse 743,465 434,120 71.3 1,187 11 626 299,633,864 Summit
20 Avatar: Special Edition 731,178 2,257,595 -67.6 436 3 1,677 759,562,778 Fox
Top 5 $ 46,082,457 $ 49,697,626 -7.3
Top 10 61,707,602 74,512,580 -17.2
Top 20 74,054,685 96,613,772 -23.3
Top 20 vs. 2009 74,054,685 86,204,729 -14.1

Last Updated: September 13, 2010 at 11:40PM ET

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