Box Office Guru Wrapup: Resident Evil: Retribution Shoots to #1

Finding Nemo, The Possession round out the top three.

This weekend, two new 3D films from well-known brands led a box office rebound after last week's atrocious performance as the action sequel Resident Evil: Retribution opened at number one followed by the re-release of Finding Nemo 3D which settled for the runner-up spot. But despite the arrival of a pair of very different new films, the overall marketplace remained in the doldrums suffering double digit losses compared to the same frame from the last few years.

Opening well in the top spot, Sony's Resident Evil: Retribution took the box office crown with an estimated $21.1M from 3,012 locations for a good $7,005 average, helped by higher prices from 3D and IMAX screens. The R-rated fifth chapter in the decade-old sci-fi action series became the fourth consecutive film in the franchise to open at number one - always in the month of September when competition is light.

However, the latest Alice adventure did suffer a 21% drop from the $26.7M bow of 2010's Afterlife which was also in 3D. In terms of admissions, it was the lowest performance ever in the Milla Jovovich series. Audience erosion is common for franchises heading into their fifth installments - if they get that far - and consumers have become less impressed with 3D now.

Studio research showed that 64% of the audience was male and 55% was over 25. Reviews were weak and the CinemaScore grade was a disappointing C+ so the usual fast fade is likely next weekend. Retribution did make good use of the extra dimension as 66% of the gross came from 3D plus IMAX and other large-format screens.

But the main reason new Resident Evil films get financed is that they make a killing overseas. Afterlife grossed a stellar $296M worldwide (by far the best in the series) with a towering 80% coming from outside of North America. Retribution is well on its way towards the same lofty levels thanks to its debut in 50 territories this weekend which grossed an estimated $50M, up 28% from the debuts from the same markets from that last installment. Japan led the way with $10.3M (15% bigger than Afterlife and bigger than The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises) followed by Russia with $8.5M (20% better). Not all markets were eager to see Alice again. Korea debuted to $2.4M (25% less than Afterlife) while Australia bowed to a weak $1.5M (down 23%). Most Asian and Latin American markets, however, saw Retribution open better than Afterlife.

Disney's latest effort to mine its lucrative library for more cash came in the form of the 3D re-release of Pixar's Finding Nemo which debuted in second place with an estimated $17.5M from 2,904 locations for a commendable $6,028 average. The G-rated modern classic did about half the business that the Mouse House saw a year ago this weekend with its 3D upgrade for The Lion King which bowed at number one with $30.2M on its way to $94.2M. Instead, Nemo was in the same neighborhood as January's Beauty and the Beast 3D release which debuted to $17.8M heading to a $47.6M finish. The idea of re-releasing a 3D version of a popular blockbuster from recent decades has become more common and no longer as special as it was even just one year ago.

The fish flick raised its lifetime domestic gross to $357.2M and climbed up three notches to number 21 on the list of all-time blockbusters just ahead of Jurassic Park. Spielberg's 1993 dinosmash, of course, sold plenty of more tickets. Pixar next has Monsters, Inc. on deck for the 3D treatment with its re-release set for this holiday season on December 19 which hopes to reinvigorate the brand ahead of next summer's prequel, Monsters University. The first five films from the computer animation pioneer have all been getting 3D re-releases with the notable exception of 1998's A Bug's Life, the company's lowest grosser. Disney will revert back to its traditional archives for this weekend next year with its 3D upgrade to 1989's The Little Mermaid swimming into theaters.

Two-time chart-topper The Possession fell to third place but once again posted a hold that was quite impressive for a horror film. The Lionsgate release grossed an estimated $5.8M, off just 38%, boosting the 17-day cume to $41.2M. It has taken advantage of a major void in the marketplace for fright films. Also staying sturdy in its third round was the crime drama Lawless which slipped only 30% to an estimated $4.2M giving The Weinstein Co. $30.1M to date.

The rest of the films in the top ten fell within a tight $600,000 range so chart rankings may change when final numbers are reported on Monday. Focus saw its toon ParaNorman dip just 28% to an estimated $3M while Lionsgate's action sequel The Expendables 2 fell 39% to the same gross. Totals are $49.3M and $80.3M, respectively.

Declining by a reasonable 39% in its second weekend was the Bradley Cooper drama The Words with an estimated $2.9M for a $9.2M sum after ten days for CBS Films. Universal's spy sequel The Bourne Legacy took in an estimated $2.9M as well, off 28%, for a $107.8M total. Dipping 31% to an estimated $2.5M was Disney's family film The Odd Life of Timothy Green and rounding out the top ten was Will Ferrell's comedy The Campaign with an estimated $2.4M, dropping 29%. Cumes stand at $46.3M and $82.9M.

Updated domestic/worldwide totals for some of the summer's biggest hits are $622.2M/$1.51B for The Avengers, $441M/$1.06B for The Dark Knight Rises, $217.4M/$406.4M for Ted, $215.6M/$620.3M for Madagascar 3, and $157.9M/$838.9M for Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Generating a jaw-dropping gross in its platform debut, Paul Thomas Anderson's new drama The Master lured in an estimated $730,000 from only five runs in New York and Los Angeles giving it an eye-popping $146,000 average per theater. That was enough to break the record for biggest opening weekend average for a regular live-action release easily beating out the $130,749 of last May's Moonrise Kingdom from Wes Anderson. The five theaters reported sell outs everyday and most triple-screened the film (16 screens total) offering up to 14 showtimes daily to accommodate the large arthouse crowds that were expected for the filmmaker's follow-up to There Will Be Blood which was a major Oscar contender five years ago and won Daniel-Day Lewis his second Best Actor statue.

The Master, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a disenfranchised soldier and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the charismatic cult leader who takes him in, stormed in with an avalanche of film festival buzz thanks to awards in Venice and a big premiere in Toronto. Strong reviews and a well-respected cast also helped. Moonrise Kingdom followed a similar strategy when it opened Cannes last May and then quickly followed with a U.S. platform debut ahead of a very lucrative summer run that has now brought it up to $44.9M. The Master, however, does not have the mainstream appeal of Moonrise and so venturing outside the safety of the arthouse crowd will be a challenge. The Weinstein Co. hopes to leverage the opening weekend's success as it goes nationwide this Friday into 600-800 theaters, an aggressive move for a specialty title.

Also faring well in its limited bow was the corporate thriller Arbitrage starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon with an estimated $2.1M from only 197 playdates for a solid $10,508 average. The R-rated Roadside Attractions release earned good reviews. Panned by film critics was the war veteran drama Last Ounce of Courage which debuted to an estimated $1.7M from 1,407 theaters for a feeble $1,214 average for Rocky Mountain.

Elsewhere among notable releases, Paramount followed its one-week IMAX run with a conventional release for the remastered version of Raiders of the Lost Ark and collected an estimated $400,000 from 322 locations for a mild $1,242 average. The 31-year-old adventure film has banked $2.8M during this re-release. The Indiana Jones series debuts on Blu-ray this Tuesday. The controversial non-fiction pic 2016 Obama?s America broke the $30M mark this weekend and ranks as the second highest-grossing political documentary of all-time after Michael Moore's 2004 juggernaut Fahrenheit 9/11. It has also passed the nature flick Chimpanzee and the music pic Katy Perry: Part Of Me to become the top-grossing doc of any kind this year.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $65.4M which was down 21% from last year when The Lion King 3D debuted at number one with $30.2M; and down 23% from 2010 when The Town opened on top with $23.8M.

Follow Gitesh on Twitter.

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