Box Office Guru Wrapup: 21 Wins Again as Leatherheads Fumbles

The gambling film drops 37%, but still stays at #1.

Despite the launches of three new wide releases, the blackjack drama 21 held onto the number one spot at the North American box office during a sluggish session that saw some of the worst grosses of the year. Universal's George Clooney-Renee Zellweger football comedy Leatherheads and Fox's Abigail Breslin-Jodie Foster family adventure Nim's Island fought fiercely over the number two spot with each studio claiming its new release would edge out the other. The race was essentially too close to call and final numbers to be released on Monday will determine which will win bragging rights over the silver medal position. Regardless of the final rankings, the marketplace slumped to its second worst performance of the year as a lack of exciting films forced people to look elsewhere for their weekend entertainment.

Sony enjoyed a very good hold for its Kevin Spacey gambling flick 21 which dropped only 37% from its opening to an estimated $15.1M. After ten days, the PG-13 film has won $46.5M and looks on its way to cash out with $80-85M. The story of MIT math wizards who spend their weekends winning big money in Las Vegas was helped by the fact that most of the new openers had little appeal to its core audience of teens and young adults. However if the estimate holds, 21 will tie Will Ferrell's basketball flop Semi-Pro for having the smallest gross for a number one film this year.

Expected by many in the industry to open at the top in the mid to high teens, George Clooney's starring and directing vehicle Leatherheads collected an estimated $13.5M during its kickoff frame. The PG-13 film about a love triangle between a reporter and two football players in the 1920s landed in 2,769 theaters and averaged a decent $4,870 but fell short of expectations. Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski also star. Carrying a $58M pricetag, the Universal release proved to be a disappointment for the studio and loudly told Hollywood something that the rest of America has known for years - that Clooney and Zellweger are not A-list stars. Moviegoers don't rush out and pay top dollar to see their films.

Leatherheads was one of the oldest-skewing films of the year. Studio research showed that a remarkably high 75% of the audience was over the age of 30 and that more than half were over the age of 40. Females made up 54% of the crowd. A lack of starpower, uninteresting subject matter, and a wave of bad reviews all contributed to the lackluster debut. With the exception of the Ocean's films which boast tons of stars, most movies starring Clooney have not opened well. Universal estimated a rather low 29% Saturday-to-Sunday decline for Leatherheads. Fox expects Nim's Island to drop by 35% on Sunday.

Fox estimated an opening weekend gross of $13.3M for its adventure tale Nim's Island starring Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, and Gerard Butler. The PG-rated family film launched ultrawide in 3,513 locations and averaged a lukewarm $3,786 per site. The audience was 60% female and split evenly between those over and under 25. Budgeted at $37M, Nim's connected with its core audience of young girls and their moms, but lacked the muscle to make it a strong box office performer.

2008's most popular film Horton Hears A Who dropped down to fourth place in its fourth weekend with an estimated $9.1M. Down 49%, the PG-rated comedy lifted its total to a robust $131.1M after 24 days. Compared to Fox's previous March toons, Horton is running 7% behind the pace of 2002's Ice Age but 26% ahead of 2005's Robots.

The DreamWorks horror entry The Ruins debuted in fifth place with only mild results. Distributed by Paramount, the R-rated film grossed an estimated $7.8M from 2,812 locations for a weak $2,788 average. The frightfest about a group of Americans finding ancient terror in Cancun continued the diminishing returns seen by this year's crop of horror titles. January's One Missed Call bowed to $12.5M, February's The Eye opened to $12.4M, while last month's Shutter launched with $10.4M. All of those were remakes of Asian chillers and were rated PG-13.

The spoof comedy Superhero Movie had a moderate sophomore hold dropping 43% to an estimated $5.4M. The MGM/Weinstein Co. film has grossed $16.9M in ten days and should finish with $25-30M.

Two films tied for seventh. Lionsgate's latest Tyler Perry offering Meet the Browns dropped 53% to an estimated $3.5M upping the total to $37.8M. The Owen Wilson bodyguard comedy Drillbit Taylor grossed an estimated $3.5M as well, off 39%, for a cume of $25.6M thus far for Paramount.

Fox's horror flick Shutter, the studio's third entry in the top ten, fell 45% to an estimated $2.9M putting the remake at $23.2M. Rounding out the top ten was 2008's top-grossing global blockbuster 10,000 BC with an estimated $2.8M, off 44%, which put Warner Bros. at $89.3M from North America. Overseas the tally rose to $153.4M for a stellar worldwide haul of $243M.

Martin Scorsese and The Rolling Stones joined forces for the concert film Shine A Light which opened in limited release with respectable, but not spectacular numbers. The PG-13 pic collected an estimated $1.5M from only 276 halls for a moderate $5,475 average. One-third of those venues were Imax theaters which charged higher ticket prices. Paramount Classics distributed the rock pic.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $76.9M which was down a steep 27% from last year when Blades of Glory remained at number one with $22.5M; and down 22% from 2006 when Ice Age: The Meltdown stayed in the top spot with $33.8M.

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