Box office: ‘Last Exorcism’ and ‘Takers’ in dead heat, ‘Avatar’ re-release fizzles


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Moviegoers wanted to get scared just as much as they wanted to enjoy a good crime caper this weekend, but very few were interested in a return trip to Pandora.

Based on studio estimates released Sunday morning, indie horror film ‘The Last Exorcism’ and heist film ‘Takers’ were in a virtual dead heat, with both selling about $21 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada for the weekend.


‘Takers’ reached that total despite playing at 668 fewer theaters, making it arguably a bigger achievement for that movie’s distributor and financier Sony Pictures. On the other hand, ‘The Last Exorcism’ cost less than $2 million to produce, compared with $32 million for ‘Takers,’ so that movie’s performance meant more to the bottom line of its independent producers and its distributor, Lionsgate.

‘Avatar: Special Edition,’ a re-release of director James Cameron’s science-fiction blockbuster only on 3-D and Imax screens that included nine minutes of new footage, attracted small crowds. Despite the advantage of ticket-price surcharges in all its 811 theaters, it grossed just $4 million, not even enough to crack the top 10 for the weekend.

Still, 20th Century Fox had very little at stake with the movie besides the relatively modest amount spent on marketing and to strike up new prints. The film already racked up $750 million in domestic receipts last winter.

Overseas, where ‘Avatar’ was re-released in 14 foreign markets including Britain, Russia, Australia India and South Korea, it generated another $4.3 million.

‘Last Exorcism’ took a commanding lead at the domestic box office on Friday, grossing $9.5 million, compared with $7.5 million for ‘Takers.’ But despite good reviews, ‘Exorcism’ received an average audience grade of D, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Its ticket tales plummeted 24% on Saturday to $7.1 million, while receipts for ‘Takers,’ which got a CinemaScore of B, rose slightly to $7.7 million.

Sony ended up estimating that ‘Takers,’ which featured an ensemble cast including rapper T.I., Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Matt Dillor, Zoe Saldana, and Paul Walker, took in $21 million for the weekend. With a mostly African American cast, the movie had been expected to draw a large number of black moviegoers based on pre-release polling.


The performance was on the high end of what Sony typically hoped to generate from its low-budget Screen Gems genre label.

‘The Last Exorcism’ opening marks a big win for Lionsgate as well. The studio spent less than $1 million to acquire domestic distribution rights to the PG-13 horror movie produced by Eli Roth, which was made for less than $2 million. The studio estimated that it grossed $21.3 million this weekend. The studio spent substantially more on marketing, of course, including an aggressive online campaign.

Given its D CinemaScore and big drop in ticket sales Saturday, however, it’s likely that ‘The Last Exorcism’ will disappear from theaters quickly and ultimately gross less than ‘Takers.’

[Update, 10:13 a.m.: Exit polling showed an unusually high 54% of ‘Last Exorcism’ attendees were Latino. As a result, the film did particularly well in the Southwest and on the West Coast, particularly in Los Angeles, its best-performing city.]

Among last weekend’s new movies, family sequel ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ and the Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy ‘The Switch’ held on best, with ticket sales dropping 44% and 45%, respectively. The ‘Twilight’ spoof ‘Vampires Suck’ and cheesy thriller ‘Piranha 3-D’ both dropped 57%. [Update, 11:40 a.m.: ‘Lottery Ticket’ declined 62%.]

[Update, 10:13 a.m.: Overseas this weekend, the Angelina Jolie movie ‘Salt’ premiered in France to a solid $4.7 million. Its international total is now $131.2 million, higher than its $113.3-million domestic take. The Sony action film is doing fairly well around the world but is far from a blockbuster.

‘The Karate Kid’ opened to a good $4.7 million in Spain and $2.3 million in Brazil, bringing its foreign total so far to $143.7 million, short of its domestic $175.5 million.


‘Grown Ups’debuted to a decent $3.2 million in Great Britain. Its foreign total so far of $69.7 million is already on the high end for an Adam Sandler comedy.

‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ opened to a less impressive $2.5 million in Great Britain. It has grossed $6.2 million internationally so far from a handful of countries.

‘Toy Story 3’ generated $12.7 million from foreign countries and $1.1 million in the U.S. and Canada, boosting its global box-office total to just over $1 billion. It’s the first animated film -- and the seventh film ever -- to reach that mark.

[Update, Aug. 30, 10:10 a.m.: For more, see the box office story in today’s Times.]

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and, along with international receipts when available:

1. ‘The Last Exorcism’ (Lionsgate): Opened to $21.3 million

2. ‘Takers’ (Sony Screen Gems): Opened to $21 million

3. ‘The Expendables’ (Lionsgate/Millenium/NuImage): $9.5 million on its third weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $82 million.


4. ‘Eat Pray Love’ (Sony): $7 million on its third weekend, down 42%. Domestic total: $60.7 million.

5. ‘The Other Guys’ (Sony/Relativity): $6.6 million on its fourth weekend, down 35%. Domestic total: $99.3 million.

6. ‘Vampires Suck’ (Fox/Regency): $5.3 million on its second weekend, down 57%. $2.1 million overseas in 14 foreign markets. Domestic total: $27.9 million. International total: $3.1 million.

7. ‘Inception’ (Warner Bros./Legendary): $5.1 million on its seventh weekend, down 35%. $15.1 million overseas in 60 foreign markets. Domestic total: $270.7 million. International total: $384 million.

8. ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ (Universal/Relativity): $4.7 million on its second weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $17 million. International total: $62.6 million.

9. ‘The Switch’ (Disney): $4.7 million on its second weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $16.5 million.

10. ‘Piranha 3-D’ (Weinstein/Dimension): $4.3 million on its second weekend, down 57%. Domestic total:$18.3 million.]

-- Ben Fritz

Photos, from top: Patrick Fabian, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones and Ashley Bell in ‘The Last Exorcism.’ Credit: Patti Perrett / Lionsgate. Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen and Paul Walker in ‘Takers.’ Credit: Suzanne Tenner / Sony Screen Gems