Moviegoers had four new films to choose from at the box office this weekend, but "Argo" — the well-reviewed film that has been out for 17 days — still seemed like a better option to most.
Ben Affleck's political thriller claimed the top spot at the multiplex with $12.4 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. That's the second-lowest No. 1 of the year, behind the $9.3 million "The Possession" took in during its second weekend of release in September. Still, "Argo" — which has been in the runner-up position for the last two weekends — is well on its way to becoming a hit with a total of $60.8 million so far.
There wasn't much else for studios to celebrate at the box office this weekend. "Cloud Atlas," the nearly three-hour-long epic with a $102-million budget, came in with a dismal $9.4-million opening. The horror sequel "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D," which was expected to have the highest gross of the weekend, instead started off with a lackluster $8 million.
And the weekend's other two new films could barely lure anyone to the cinemas. "Fun Size," the Halloween teen comedy starring Nickelodeon's Victoria Justice, launched with a paltry $4.1 million. Meanwhile, the Gerard Butler surfing drama "Chasing Mavericks" opened with an embarrassing $2.2 million.
Although Warner Bros. may be enjoying the success of "Argo," the studio's latest release is a major disappointment. Heading into the year, "Cloud Atlas" was one of the mostly highly anticipated films of 2012. Based on the bestselling 2004 novel by British author David Mitchell, the movie stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and is directed by Tom Tykwer and the siblings responsible for "The Matrix," Andy and Lana Wachowski.
But the movie has been met with mixed reviews since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this fall, and those who saw it this weekend didn't enjoy it. The picture — which attracted a heavily older crowd, 77% of whom were over the age of 25 — assigned it an average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
The only good news for Warner Bros. is that the studio doesn't have a huge financial investment in the film. The studio paid $15 million for the movie's domestic rights, and the rest of the movie's budget was paid for by a combination of investors including the Wachowskis, Asian sources and the German government.
Like most scary movies, the "Silent Hill" sequel received a bad average grade from moviegoers — a C+. Reviewers also hated it, as the film has only garnered a measly 7% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie's opening was also far lower than that of the original "Silent Hill," which debuted with $20.2 million in 2006 and ended up with about $100 million worldwide. Even with the benefit of 3-D ticket surcharges, it doesn't appear the sequel will come close to that sum.
The follow-up, which focuses on a teenage girl who is confused about her true identity, was acquired by Open Road Entertainment from producer Samuel Hadida in April. The company is spending $20 million to market the $20-million production.
Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies' "Fun Size" also didn't have a huge budget — only about $14 million. Still, the directorial debut from "Gossip Girl" creator Josh Schwartz doesn't look as if it will be the modest hit the studio was hoping for. The picture, which earned an average grade of B, features Nickelodeon's Justice as a high schooler whose mom makes her babysit her brother on Halloween. Predictably, the film appealed mostly to young girls, as 67% of the audience was female and 73% was under the age of 25.
Like many before her, the 19-year-old Justice may have a difficult time parlaying her television success into a movie career. Earlier this year, "Hannah Montana" veteran Miley Cyrus' "LOL" barely got a theatrical release due to its poor reviews, and "Wizards of Waverly Place" actress Selena Gomez's "Monte Carlo" only grossed $23.2 million domestically in 2011.
Though hardly anyone saw it, "Chasing Mavericks" actually had the best exit polls of the weekend, scoring a B+ CinemaScore. The $20-million production, which was financed by Walden Media and is being distributed by 20th Century Fox, is based on the true story of a young surfer who had an infamous wipeout during a competition.
The film's poor opening follows months of issues for the production, which director Michael Apted was forced to take over when filmmaker Curtis Hansen fell ill during filming. Butler was also involved in a near-death surfing accident while shooting a stunt in the ocean. While the actor is healthy now, his box-office track record isn't looking too hot. "Mavericks" is the latest flop for the 42-year-old "300" veteran, whose "Machine Gun Preacher" failed to hit even $1 million last year.
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