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Box office: 3-D brings latest 'Resident Evil' movie to new high [updated]

September 12, 2010 |  9:38 am

REAfterlife Four movies in, there's no sign of franchise fatigue for "Resident Evil."

The newest big-screen adaptation of the hit horror video-game series, titled "Resident Evil: Afterlife," opened to $27.7 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. It was the first film in the franchise made in 3-D.

"Resident Evil" was the only new movie to open nationwide this year on the traditionally slow weekend after Labor Day. Total receipts for all films were the lowest for any weekend so far this year, according to Hollywood.com.

After accounting for the higher ticket prices that come with 3-D, the opening of "Afterlife" was right in line with its two predecessors. 2004's "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" opened to $23 million, and 2007's "Resident Evil: Extinction" opened to $23.7 million (2002's original debuted to $17.7 million). Roughly two-thirds of the theaters playing "Afterlife" showed it in 3-D.

Overseas, however, the new film is blowing away previous "Resident Evil" movies. Sony opened "Afterlife"  in 29 foreign markets this weekend and collected about 2 1/2 times as much as "Extinction" in the same countries. Total foreign grosses were an estimated $42.5 million, led by Japan, where the video games are produced and the series has always been most popular, which generated $15.5 million. Russia was No. 2 with a very strong $9.5 million, followed by Spain with $3.4 million.

The "Resident Evil" movies have always been more successful internationally than in the U.S. and Canada. "Afterlife" is on track not only to continue that trend, but also to build on it.

It's rare that movie franchises continue to third sequels, and when they do, ticket sales can start to dip as audiences grow weary. May's "Shrek Forever After," for instance, was DreamWorks Animation's lowest-grossing film domestically starring the green ogre (though it did virtually the same business overseas as the second and third "Shrek" pictures). Last year's "Terminator Salvation," the fourth installment in the science-fiction series, performed worse both domestically and overseas than the last two versions.

"Resident Evil" isn't nearly as big as "Shrek" or "Terminator" but has been a consistent performer with its mostly male audiences.

Marketing for the new installment features well-known characters from the series, including returning actress Milla Jovovich, in images that emphasize its 3-D effects.

German company Constantin Films spent a little less than $60 million to produces "Afterlife," producer Jeremy Bolt said in a recent interview. Sony's Screen Gems genre label then bought distribution rights in most territories worldwide.

Among last week's new pictures, George Clooney drama "The American" fell a sizable but not huge 55% to $5.9 million. Dismal exit polls indicating that audiences hated the picture and would spread negative word-of-mouth easily could have led to a bigger drop.

But the action-exploitation film "Machete," primarily marketed to Latino audiences, took a bigger drop, 63%, indicating that most moviegoers interested in the film came opening weekend. It sold $4.2 million worth of tickets.

It was slightly ahead of the Drew Barrymore-Justin Long romantic comedy "Going the Distance," which fell only 44% after its weak opening to $3.8 million.

The controversial "I'm Still Here," about Joaquin Phoenix's attempt to transition from acting to rapping, didn't make much of a dent at the box office despite broad discussion in the media about whether the Casey Affleck-directed picture was a real documentary or performance art. Playing in 20 theaters in 18 cities, it collected only $98,000, or a relatively soft $4,900 per location.

[Update, 11:55 a.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com. International grosses are included when available.

1. "Resident Evil: Afterlife" (Sony Screen Gems/Constantin): Opened to $27.7 million. $42.5 million overseas in 29 foreign markets controlled by Sony.

2. "Takers" (Sony Screen Gems): $6.1 million on its third weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $48.1 million.

3. "The American" (Focus): $5.9 million on its second weekend, down 55%. Domestic total: $28.3 million.

4. "Machete" (Fox/Troublemaker): $4.2 million on its second weekend, down 63%. Domestic total: $20.8 million.

5. "Going the Distance" (Warner Bros./New Line): $3.8 million on its second weekend down 44%. Domestic total: $14 million.

6. "The Other Guys" (Sony/Relativity): $3.6 million on its sixth weekend, down 32%. $2.5 million overseas in five foreign markets. Domestic total: $112.7 million. International total: $2.7 million.

7. "The Last Exorcism" (Lionsgate/Strike): $3.5 million on its third weekend, down 53%. Domestic total: $38.2 million.

8. "The Expendables" (Lionsgate/Millenium/NuImage): $3.3 million on its fifth weekend, down 51%. Domestic total: $98.5 million.

9. "Inception" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $3 million on its ninth weekend, down 34%. $14.8 million overseas in 61 foreign markets. Domestic total: $282.4 million. International total: $447 million.

10. "Eat Pray Love" (Sony): $2.9 million on its fifth weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $74.6 million.]

[For the record, 11:55 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that "Resident Evil: Afterlife" took in $45.5 million overseas and that "The American" declined 55%.]

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Ali Larter, left, Wentworth Miller and Milla Jovovich in "Resident Evil: Afterlife." Credit: Sony Screen Gems

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