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'Dark Knight Rises' to the top of the box office again

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"The Dark Knight Rises" may have soared to the top of the box office for the second consecutive weekend, but the Batman film is still falling behind its predecessor.

The final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy saw its ticket sales tumble 60% to $64.1 million during its second weekend in theaters, according to an estimate Sunday from distributor Warner Bros. The film has now collected $289.1 million in the United States and Canada — roughly $25 million less than "The Dark Knight" made during the same time period in 2008 despite lower ticket prices.

Given that the film received an A grade from opening-weekend moviegoers and earned strong critical reviews, the difference in receipts could be largely because of the Aurora, Colo., massacre. A week after a gunman opened fire during a post-midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, Hollywood research firm NRG reported that 20% of potential moviegoers were reluctant to head to theaters.

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Two other movies struggled upon their debuts at the box office this past weekend. "The Watch," an R-rated comedy starring well-known comedians such as Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, started with a disappointing $13 million. And though "Step Up Revolution," the fourth entry in the dance franchise, was made for less money than "The Watch," its $11.8 million launch was unimpressive. 

Ticket sales were down 25% compared with the same three-day period in 2011. Many in Hollywood said the start of the Olympics this past weekend also may have negatively affected box office receipts.

For the second weekend in a row,Warner Bros.distribution executives declined to discuss the Batman film's box office performance.

Although "The Dark Knight Rises" is lagging the 2008 Batman film at the domestic box office, it has a chance to surpass the second installment overseas. This weekend, the new movie starring Christian Bale as the iconic superhero played in 57 foreign countries and grossed $122.1 million, raising its international total to $248.2 million.

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The film performed best in France, where it debuted with $11.3 million, but it continued to do solid business during its second weekend in the United Kingdom as well, where its tally now stands at $47 million. Four years ago, "The Dark Knight" sold $468.6 million worth of tickets abroad — roughly 47% of its worldwide gross.

Not many people wanted to watch "The Watch," and those who did were mostly older men. The film attracted a 60% male crowd, and 59% of the audience was 25 and older.

"The Watch" has been loathed by critics, notching only a 14% fresh rating on the movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Moviegoers who saw the film also disliked it, giving it an average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Financed for about $68 million by 20th Century Fox, "The Watch" centers on four men who launch a local neighborhood watch and then end up battling space aliens. The film was originally called "Neighborhood Watch," but Fox changed the title in May because it was fearful the movie would be wrongly tied to the Feb. 26 death of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.

"We had challenges with the movie," acknowledged Chris Aronson, Fox's president of domestic distribution. "Clearly, it had nothing to do with that unfortunate event, but we tried to be proactive. Obviously, we will look into how this film did and see what we can learn."

The 3-D "Step Up Revolution" had the lowest debut of any film in the franchise — trailing behind the $15.8 million that the third film took in on its opening weekend in 2010. Those who did see the fourth entry this past weekend — 71% of whom were 24 and younger — assigned it a B+ grade.

"Step Up Revolution" had a budget of about $33 million and is the first movie in the franchise to be financed entirely by Summit Entertainment, acquired by Lionsgate last winter. Previously, the "Step Up" films were co-financed by Summit and Walt Disney Studios.

The "Step Up" series, which started in 2006 and launched Channing Tatum's career, now stars a cast of unknown actors. Since the original hit theaters six years ago, however, the "Step Up" films have become increasingly popular abroad; two years ago,"Step Up 3-D" grossed $116.9 million overseas, accounting for roughly 73% of its worldwide gross. 

"They are probably enamored with our dance and our music," said Richie Fay, Lionsgate's president of domestic distribution. "The 3-D is still a newer concept overseas as well, and this movie particularly plays up the dancers coming out of the screen in 3-D."

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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