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Weekend Box Office: Inception Beats Dinner for Schmucks, Charlie St. Cloud

by Anthony D'Alessandro
August 1, 2010 4:08 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

In its third go-round, Inception, buoyed by repeat business, continued to stave off all challengers, including the comedy Dinner for Schmucks, which scored a robust $23.3 million, and the Zac Efron weepy Charlie St. Cloud and animated sequel Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which were both DOA. Anthony D'Alessandro does the numbers.

Given the chance to laugh or dream, moviegoers went back to dreamland.  Warner Bros.' Christopher Nolan thriller Inception kicked away three fresh wide-release contenders this weekend for the top spot, hauling in $27.5 million.  Meanwhile, Jay Roach’s comedy Dinner for Schmucks, a remake of the 1998 French film The Dinner Game, savored second place with $23.3 million – a figure that’s in line with previous Steve Carell broad comedies.
Thompson on Hollywood
Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, a CGI-live action sequel to the 2001 summer kid feature Cats and Dogs was only able to scrap up $12.5 million, having been a dormant franchise for nine years.  The studio can thank its 3D format for that one. Though the pricey family film edged out Charlie St. Cloud, $12.1 million meant more to Universal and Relativity Media, as their Zac Efron romance drama  only cost $44 million.

In its third weekend, Inception fell 36%: a drop that any distribution executive would covet, especially for a high-concept feature.

Like The Sixth Sense in 1999, Inception is the thinking person’s tentpole, with a complex plot that sparks debate in the lobby and a "need-to-see-again" response from serious moviegoers. Though Sixth Sense had a slightly different trajectory at the box office (the film bowed at $26.7 million and reaped $20-million-plus weekends for four more frames), both titles are benefactors of repeat business. Inception has made $193.3 million over three weekends, a figure that Sixth Sense accumulated in twice the amount of time.

As to whether Inception will ultimately beat out the summer's likeliest highest grosser, Toy Story 3 (at $389.7 million and counting), one studio distribution executive exclaims, “If it does, it just goes to show how healthy the moviegoing business is right now.”

Next weekend's Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg action-comedy The Other Guys could stir Inception attendees from their analytic trance. Ferrell’s previous summer collaboration with his creative partner Adam McKay have made impressive bows: 2008’s Step Brothers chalked up $30.9 million in its first weekend, while 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby posted $47 million.
 
Like Adam Sandler, Steve Carell comedies have a tendency to open at a certain level and play for several weeks, ultimately surpassing $100 million. Carell’s spring live action rom-com Date Night opened to $25.2 million and came close to ending its run at $100 million. Schmucks is a different type of comedy for director Roach, less satirical than Austin Powers and less broad than Meet the ParentsSchmucks received a similar reaction to Sony’s Grown Ups from ticket buyers overall who gave it a B Cinemascore. Critics were split over the comedy awarding it a 51% rotten on the Tomatometer. Paramount kept the Schmucks budget to $69 million– 4% less than Grown Ups, which cost %80 million.
 
Older guys cued up for Schmucks: its demo was 55% males, 54% over 25.
 
Heading into the weekend, Kitty Galore wasn’t expected to send shockwaves through the charts.  The animal-headliner suffered two fates: there’s a plethora of strong family films in the market, and parents were willing to shell out their bucks to see Toy Story 3 or Despicable Me again. Second, Warner Bros. didn’t keep the Cats and Dogs franchise alive through any prolific ancillary activity over the last nine years.  46% of those attending Kitty Galore were under 18, 54% were male. Youngsters' Cinemascore was B+ vs. an overall B-.  The critics threw kitty litter at Kitty Galore: it earned a 15% rotten Tomatometer score.
 
The only way that Kitty Galore was able to pull a double-digit gross: its 3D format. Make no mistake, Kitty Galore is a stinker.
 
Relativity Media has a knack for squeezing dough out of romance-dramas.  The financer skipped to the bank with the Nicholas Sparks four-hankie Dear John, which grossed $80 million off a $25-million budget. Charlie St. Cloud may also prove profitable, but while Efron showed off his acting chops to a small cadre of femme fans, audiences want to see him in more mainstream fare. Charlie attracted 79% females who were 59% under the age of 25.  Word-of-mouth looks strong among Charlie's youthful fans as well as their moms, who gave the film an A- Cinemascore. The critics gave the movie a sour 26% rotten..

Below are the top 10 with weekend figures:

1. Inception (Warner Bros.): $27.5 million down 36% in its third weekend at 3,545 theaters. $7,763 theater average.  Domestic total: $193.3 million
 
2. Dinner for Schmucks (Paramount): $23.3 million in its first weekend at 2,911.  $8,004 theater average.  Domestic total:$23.3 million.
 
3. Salt (Sony): $19.25 million down 47% in its second weekend at 3,612 theaters.  $5,329 theater average.  Domestic total: $70.8 million.
 
4. Despicable Me (Universal): $15.4 million down 35% in its fourth weekend at 3,602 theaters. $4,315 theater average.  Domestic total: $190.3 million
 
5. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner Bros.) : $12.5 million in its first weekend at 3,705.  $3,381 theater average.  Domestic total: $12.5 million.
 
6. Charlie St. Cloud (Universal) : $12.1 million in its first weekend at 2,718.  $4,465 theater average. Domestic total: $12.1 million.
 
7. Toy Story 3 (Disney/Pixar): $5.04 million down 44% in its seventh weekend at 2,105 theaters. $2,392 theater average. Domestic total: $389.7 million.
 
8. Grown Ups (Sony): $4.5 million down 39% in its sixth weekend at 2,269 theaters.  $1,983 theater average.  Domestic total: $150.7 million.
 
9. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Disney):$4.32 million down 55% in its third weekend at 2,524 theaters.  $1,712 theater average. Domestic total: $51.9 million.
 
10. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit Entertainment ): $3.97 million down 44% at 2,334 theaters in its fifth weekend.  $1,699 theater average.  Domestic total: $288.2 million.

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