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Box office: 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' trumps weak 'Legend of the Guardians' and 'You Again' [Updated]

September 26, 2010 | 10:08 am

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Two decades out of the spotlight haven't hurt Gordon Gekko much.

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," the contemporary follow-up to the 1987 zeitgeist classic, was master of the box-office universe this weekend, grossing a solid $19 million, according to Fox estimates. The movie beat 3-D animated film "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" and "You Again," the weekend's other wide openers. Those two movies grossed $16.3 million and $8.3 million, respectively, according to studio estimates.

Showing surprising strength was Ben Affleck's Boston crime drama "The Town," which dropped just 33% from its opening weekend to gross $16 million, finishing just a hair behind its Warner Bros. stablemate "Guardians" in third place, the studio said.

Disney's inter-generational hugs and slapstick of "You Again" could muster only a spot in fifth place, leapfrogged by the better-received "Easy A." The Emma Stone high-school dramedy grossed $10.7 million, falling just 40% percent in its second weekend, according to studio Screen Gems.

While some industry observers had been expecting an opening upward of $20 million for "Wall Street," the $19-million figure was still relatively strong, putting the drama on course to recoup on domestic receipts alone its post-credit outlay of $50 million. It's also the best opener for director Oliver Stone, edging out his $18.7 million for "World Trade Center" in 2006.

"Wall Street" was strongest among older audiences, with moviegoers over the age of 30 comprising two-thirds of ticket-holders. On the whole, the movie was adequately received by filmgoers, who gave the multilayered story a CinemaScore of B-.

The Stone-directed sequel brings back disgraced kingpin Gekko (Michael Douglas), newly sprung from prison, and introduces a host of new characters (played by the likes of Josh Brolin, Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan), all of whom suffer and scheme against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis. Stone, producer Edward Pressman and others had resisted the temptation for a "Wall Street" sequel for years. But the credit crunch two years ago convinced them and screenwriters Stephen Schiff and Allan Loeb to contemporize and continue the storyline.

The movie's prospects looked dim after it was pushed back five months from its initial release date of April 23. But Fox gambled that a delay was worth a release in an autumnal season more hospitable to adult fare and set into motion a slow rollout that began at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

The weekend clearly spelled disappointment for the pricier "Guardians." Warner Bros. had hoped that its first animated film since 2006's smash "Happy Feet" would yield some of the same mojo as that movie, with "300" director Zack Snyder bringing his trademark flash to the children's tale of a battle between good and evil in the owl world. But despite the advantage of higher 3-D ticket prices, the movie managed a number that was below the $20 million that some observers had predicted. The $16.3 million foretells a cumulative figure that is not close to the roughly $80 million the film is estimated to have cost after tax credits.

Legend The weekend figures also raise questions about the studio's wherewithal in releasing upcoming live action-animated hybrid "Yogi Bear," though that film is perceived as more conducive to a broad family audience than "Guardians."

"You Again," meanwhile, proved that the romantic and comedic hi-jinks at a family reunion -- a formula that served Disney well with 2009 breakout "The Proposal -- was not a magic bullet for the studio this time around. Although the movie cost only about $20 million to make, the hope that a bevy of multigenerational stars -- including an appearance from a resurgent Betty White -- would turn it into a crossover hit proved empty. Critics did not care for "You Again" -- it garnered a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes -- and the movie scrounged up a per-screen average of just $3,260 in its first weekend of release. 

Disney will cross its fingers that the picture, which earned a respectable B+ CinemaScore, will have some legs.

Even more disappointing was Sony's unconventional rollout for the youth-skewing comedy "The Virginity Hit." The gambit of taking the movie to college campuses and other youth-heavy venues did not bear fruit. According to Sony, the low-budget film, which follows a group of teenagers as they attempt to lose their virginity, grossed a dismal $300,000 on its 700 screens for a scant average of barely more than $400 on each screen.

Easily the most upbeat story of the weekend concerned Affleck's "The Town." Even a big drop would have kept Warner Bros. well in the black. As it is, the film's 10-day total of $49.1 million far surpasses expectations for a movie that cost the studio and partner Legendary Pictures $37 million to produce.

In limited release, Lionsgate opened claustrophobic thriller "Buried" to $105,000 and a decent per-screen average of $9,500. Woody Allen's 41st feature, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," grossed $163,500 this weekend for a five-day total of $214,800; the movie averaged an impressive $27,300 on each of its six screens. David Guggenheim's documentary "Waiting for Superman" performed equally well in its limited release. The education-policy cri de coeur averaged $35,000 on each of its four screens for a three-day total of $141,000.

[Updated at 10:43 a.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com, along with international ticket sales when available.]

1. "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (20th Century Fox): Opened to $19 million domestically.  Opened in a smattering of foreign markets, including Australia, Sweden and Brazil, for a solid total of $9.1 million.

2. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): Opened to $16.3 million.

3. "The Town" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $16 million on its second weekend, down 33%. Grossed $4.5 million in six international markets. Domestic total: $49.1 million. International total: $7.2 million.

4. "Easy A" (Sony Screen Gems): $10.7 million on its second weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $32.8 million.

5. "You Again" (Disney): Opened to $8.3 million domestically. Also opened in one foreign market (Russia) to $1.3 million.

6. "Devil" (Universal):$6.5 million on its second weekend, down 47%. Grossed $2.8 million in 12 foreign markets. Domestical total: $21.7 million. International total: $6.5 million

7. "Resident Evil: Afterlife (Sony Screen Gems/Constantin): $4.9 million on its third weekend, down 51%. Took in another $24 million overseas. Domestic total: $52 million. International total: $151 million.

8. "Alpha and Omega" (Lionsgate/Crest): $4.7 million on its second weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $15.1 million.

9. "Takers" (Sony Screen Gems): $1.7 million on its fifth weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $55 million.

10. "Inception" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $1.3 million on its eleventh weekend, down 37%.Took in $10.6 million overseas in 60 markets. Domestic total: $287 million. International total: $483 million.

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Top photo: Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." Credit: 20th Century Fox. Bottom photo: "Legend of the Guardians." Credit: Warner Bros.

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