Box Office Guru Wrapup: Audiences Power Knowing To # 1

I Love You, Man and Duplicity round out the top three.

This weekend Moviegoers still love Nicolas Cage action flicks as the actor's latest film, the doomsday thriller Knowing, easily beat out two other new releases to capture the top spot at the North American box office. Opening in second and third respectively were the buddy comedy I Love You, Man starring Paul Rudd and the Julia Roberts-Clive Owen spy pic Duplicity. With the trio of new titles pulling in over $57M, most holdovers suffered sizable drops as the overall marketplace lagged behind last year's numbers by a slim margin.

Scoring his eleventh number one opening since winning an Oscar in 1996, Cage led the effects-driven actioner Knowing to a strong $24.8M debut, according to estimates. The Summit release averaged a potent $7,447 from 3,332 theaters and gave the young studio its second number one opener in four months. The company's vampire smash Twilight hit the top of the charts during its November launch and hit DVD this weekend with its Saturday street date. Knowing, which finds Cage playing a professor who discovers a code that can predict future disasters, was rated PG-13 and played evenly to males and females according to studio research. The audience was older as 63% of the crowd was 25 or over. Critics mostly pointed their thumbs down, but ticket buyers didn't care.

The male bonding comedy I Love You, Man debuted in second with an estimated $18M for Paramount. Starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segal, the R-rated laugher averaged an impressive $6,641 from 2,711 locations and performed much like the last comedies from each actor. Rudd's Role Models bowed to $19.2M last November while Segal's Forgetting Sarah Marshall opened to $17.7M last April. Both carried R ratings and played to young adults just like Man reaching final tallies of $67.3M and $62.9M, respectively. Reviews were generally positive.

Julia Roberts and Clive Owen debuted in third place with their caper pic Duplicity which grossed an estimated $14.4M from 2,574 theaters for a solid $5,595 average. Universal's PG-13 film about former spies that plot a con operation against a pair of corporations marked Roberts' first lead role in a live-action wide opener in more than five years. During that time, the Oscar-winning actress took many supporting roles in films that were not anchored by her like Ocean's Twelve and Charlie Wilson's War. This time around she was the main star and settled for third place, but still posted numbers that were very respectable. Openings for her films from the early part of this decade include $11.5M for 2003's Mona Lisa Smile, $20.1M for The Mexican, and $28.1M for 2000's Erin Brockovich. Reviews were decent and the adult female audience could continue to show up in the weeks to come. Duplicity had the best Friday-to-Saturday bump among the weekend's new releases with 27% compared to Knowing's 9% and I Love You, Man's 7%.

Even with no new family films opening, Disney's PG-rated adventure Race to Witch Mountain still suffered a sizable drop falling 47% to an estimated $13M in its second weekend. After ten days, the Dwayne Johnson starrer has banked $44.7M. Race is nearly on par with Johnson's last kid-friendly offering for the studio, 2007's The Game Plan, although it opened stronger and is falling harder. Game Plan bowed to $23M and dipped only 28% in the second frame for a ten-day tally of $43.2M on its way to a $90.6M final. With DreamWorks charging into theaters aggressively on Friday with its 3D toon Monster vs. Aliens which could generate the biggest opening of the year, the Disney actioner may see more big declines ahead ending its run with $80-85M.

In its third weekend, the comic flick Watchmen fell another 62% and grossed an estimated $6.8M raising the 17-day cume to $98.1M for Warner Bros. At its current trajectory, the final domestic gross should finish with about $110M. Universal's horror redo The Last House on the Left also fell hard dropping to an estimated $5.9M in its sophomore frame, down 58%, for a total of $24M in ten days.

The Fox companies followed with their $130M+ blockbusters. Liam Neeson's Taken took in an estimated $4.1M in seventh place, off 38%, for a sum of $133.1M. Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire dropped 46% to an estimated $2.7M putting its gross to date at $137.2M.

Falling to ninth place was Madea Goes to Jail with an estimated $2.5M, off 51%, and a total of $87.2M for Lionsgate. The Focus 3D hit Coraline slipped only 21% and pulled in an estimated $2.1M in its seventh round. Cume is $72.8M. Each film is now the second biggest grosser ever for its distributor trailing Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.2M for Lionsgate) and Brokeback Mountain ($83M for Focus) respectively. Coincidentally, Slumdog is Searchlight's number two all-time hit but still has a chance of surpassing the $143.5M of Juno.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $94.3M which was down less than 1% from last year when Horton Hears A Who remained in the top spot with $24.6M; and down 19% from 2007 when TMNT opened at number one with $24.3M.

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