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Weekend Box Office: Unfortunately, Bradley Cooper Is A Star As 'Limitless' Opens At Number One

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist March 20, 2011 at 5:53AM

When your R-rated comedy does over a quarter of a billion domestically, it’s probably time to cash-in. And yet, the three stars involved in “The Hangover” have taken very different career turns between “Hangover” films. Ed Helms has found himself handicapped by not only being a “type” more than a real actor, but also having to return to NBC as a supporting actor on “The Office,” while planned collaborations with Judd Apatow and Steve Carrell never panned out. Zack Galifianakis has done the most with his newfound clout, starring in one bonafide $100 million grosser (“Due Date”), doing supporting work in high profile performers (“Dinner For Schmucks,” “Up In The Air"), and remaining visible with a number of television and indie film appearances.
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When your R-rated comedy does over a quarter of a billion domestically, it’s probably time to cash-in. And yet, the three stars involved in “The Hangover” have taken very different career turns between “Hangover” films. Ed Helms has found himself handicapped by not only being a “type” more than a real actor, but also having to return to NBC as a supporting actor on “The Office,” while planned collaborations with Judd Apatow and Steve Carrell never panned out. Zack Galifianakis has done the most with his newfound clout, starring in one bonafide $100 million grosser (“Due Date”), doing supporting work in high profile performers (“Dinner For Schmucks,” “Up In The Air"), and remaining visible with a number of television and indie film appearances.

It makes sense that of the three, the handsome, somewhat vacant Bradley Cooper would become the A-List star. And then Cooper spent a lot of time not working, instead chasing the gym and aiming for leading man roles. Eventually, his big ticket was second billing in an “A-Team” movie that no one liked, in addition to appearing in a couple of pre-’Hangover” flops that gathered dust on the shelves before perfunctory releases (“All About Steve” and “Case 39”). Could this be another shot at four quadrant stardom with a $19 million opening for “Limitless?”

It’s all perception in Hollywood, so while an $18 million opening probably won’t get you to $50 million, and could be considered a disappointment for many leading men, this was a cheap film that was projected to debut much lower. As such, an ad blitz from Relativity Pictures (their biggest debut as a distributor, and only non-embarrassing one) carried the day, defeating the original Bradley Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) in a matchup of hunky white dudes. With “The Hangover Part II” coming up, Cooper will likely stay in the limelight for awhile, but producers have to be wondering how they would’ve managed if they went with their first choice for the role, Shia LeBeouf. LeBeouf, for the record, has scored seven straight number one movies as a leading man. How did we end up with these types of leading men?

Rango” showed much stronger week three legs than it did in its second frame, and $100 million should be a lock by next weekend. Beyond that? There might be some teeth to get this one to $130, but it will take some strong overseas numbers to get “Rango” in the black. Still, “Rango” has surely been one of the most-talked-about films of the year, and if that holds, it could make the final circle for Best Animated Film consideration at the Oscars. And if they re-release it as “Pixar’s Rango” it would probably win.

Surprisingly to no one, “Battle: Los Angeles” fell by the wayside. As much as the film was anticipated, the crowds who didn’t rush out to that first weekend were likely put off by word-of-mouth, since the film is a gargantuan pile of shit. After ten days, “Battle: Los Angeles” is not being discussed, acknowledged or even mocked, and it is not part of the national conversation. Sony might have the muscle to get this to $100 million, but that’s not likely. International box office should lead to profits, but no one at the studio is remotely interested in talking sequels just yet.

Much has been made of “The Lincoln Lawyer” and it’s deal with Groupon.com and Fandango that allowed for the sale of $6 tickets, of which the film bagged hundreds of thousands. So attendance seems to have been high for the Matthew McConaughey drama, which otherwise registered on the low end of his openers. This isn’t a surprise, as it was pushed as somewhat serious springtime fare, with McConaughey not once taking off his shirt, and with Kate Hudson nowhere to be found. Considering the subject matter, the film is likely to have better legs than the weekend’s other two debuts.

In a bit of a surprise, the geek-centric “Paul” somehow enticed a few audience-goers into plunking down some cash. Not that we were rooting for the film to fail, but everything about the trailers, from the British-ness, to the presence of Mr. I-Do-Movies-People-Purposely-Don’t-See Jason Bateman, to the restrictive rating, suggested that teens, couples, women, older audiences and Christians would be uninterested in the film. Instead, this is a solid number for a not-that-expensive offering which is already pulling in solid change overseas. Expect the film to be a major renter and catalog title for a good while due to the stay-at-home demographic of Simon Pegg fans and the easy home-video marketability of even the worst science fiction.

Of last weekend’s debuts, “Red Riding Hood” had a steady drop, but it still was able to stay ahead of “Mars Needs Moms.” The animated film actually posted the lowest audience drop in the top ten, probably because things could not be worse than last weekend. The $150 million ‘toon also registered the worst per-screen average in the top eight, so it’s likely the movie could hang around because of those 3D prices, though Disney might want to wash their hands of this disaster, cut their losses and retrieve those prints currently playing to near-empty houses. There is a lesson that can be learned by Disney here. We’re not sure they know what it is, but it’s there.

The Adjustment Bureau” and “Beastly” look primed for hit status. “Bureau” should finish at $60 million, but it could tap out at $70 if it holds steady over the next couple of weeks. The romantic thriller should be a popular renter and is doing solid international, so while it may not be a bonanza, all parties involved have to be pleased with the $62 million-budgeted film. And “Beastly” came in on the cheap, with CBS Films making a mint selling off the international rights before the domestic release. The budget was said to be around $17 million, so bagging $22 million isn’t celebration worthy, but it’s probably the strongest success from CBS Films, who has only released one bigger grosser, the too-expensive Jennifer Lopez comedy “The Back-Up Plan.” And no one remembers “The Back-Up Plan” but surely people will be making “Beastly” jokes in a year, if only ironically.

In indie theaters, "Win Win" brought in $153k on only five screens, while Roadside Attractions opened "The Music Never Stopped" to an $88k total, though that was on thirty-two screens. The week's best per-screen was the one-screen showing of "Bill Cunningham New York," which grabbed $33k at its sole New York engagement. Last week's big arthouse winner, "Jane Eyre," expanded to a $478k gross on only 26 screens and it looks like it could be a major player with coming expansion. Same goes for "Kill The Irishman," which expanded into 21 locations for $143k. Not so for "Winter In Wartime," which tallied $16k on three screens, or "Desert Flower," which nabbed half that on the same amount of screens. Support your local arthouse, boys and girls.

1. Limitless (Relativity) - $19 million
2. Rango (Paramount) - $15.3 million ($93 mil.)
3. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony) - $14.6 million ($61 mil.)
4. The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate) - $13.4 million
5. Paul (Universal) - $13.2 million
6. Red Riding Hood (Warner Bros.) - $7.3 million ($26 mil.)
7. The Adjustment Bureau - $5.9 million ($49 mil.)
8. Mars Needs Moms (Disney) - $5.3 million ($15 mil.)
9. Beastly (CBS Films) - $3.3 million ($22 mil.)
10. Hall Pass (Warner Bros.) - $2.6 million ($40 mil.)


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