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Box office: 'Roommate' beats 'Sanctum' on slow Super Bowl weekend [Updated]

February 6, 2011 |  9:48 am

Leighton "The Roommate" scared up more business than "Sanctum," but there were no real winners on a sluggish Super Bowl weekend at the box office.

The teen horror thriller "The Roommate" opened to a so-so $15.6 million, according to studio estimates, while the James Cameron-produced 3-D adventure "Sanctum" brought in a soft $9.2 million on its first weekend.

Studios were expecting particularly low grosses for their movies on Sunday, as the Super Bowl has become a national event that keeps most Americans glued to their televisions. Nonetheless, the numbers were especially disappointing, as total ticket sales were down 24.5% compared with Super Bowl weekend last year, according to Hollywood.com.

"The Roommate," which stars Minka Kelly and "Gossip Girl's" Leighton Meester, was driven by a young female audience that typically likes scary movies and is familiar with the film's stars, according to exit polls. As with most releases from Sony's Screen Gems label, the film had a low budget, costing only $16 million to produce. Horror movies, however, tend to fade quickly at the box office, and word-of-mouth was mixed, with audiences giving the film an average grade of B-, according to market-research firm CinemaScore. As a result, "The Roommate" may only be a modest financial performer for the studio.

Sanctum "Sanctum" was more underwhelming, though it shouldn't leave its backers too far underwater. Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent $12 million to acquire distribution rights to the Australian film. Its audience was almost evenly split between men and women, a surprise given that pre-release polling indicated that it was generating more interest among men. Still, moviegoers didn't seem entirely taken with the picture, giving it a CinemaScore of C+.

The vast majority of ticket sales for "Sanctum" came from theaters showing the movie in 3-D, which represented 84% of total receipts. IMAX screens were particularly lucrative, generating 17% of the business, although they were only 6% of the total locations.

"Sanctum" opened simultaneously in Britain, where it placed No. 5 with an unimpressive $1.5 million, and in Australia, where it debuted to a stronger $1.6 million, good enough for second place in the smaller country.

Neither of the two movies that opened last weekend had a strong hold. The Anthony Hopkins' horror film "The Rite" dropped 62% to $5.6 million, and the Jason Statham action flick "The Mechanic" fell 53% to $5.4 million.

"The King's Speech," which garnered 12 Oscar nominations, continued to reign among awards contenders at the box office. On its second weekend in wide release, the film dropped only 25% and grossed $8.3 million, increasing its total to $84.1 million. "True Grit" was down 37%, adding $4.8 million to its impressive tally, which now stands at $155 million. And "Black Swan" remained in the top 10, dropping 34% to $3.4 million. The psychological ballet thriller is closing in on $100 million, now standing at $95.9 million.

But another film starring Natalie Portman barely registered with moviegoers. "The Other Woman," which already had been available via video-on-demand for a month, opened to a paltry $5,900 at two theaters. But Portman's romantic comedy "No Strings Attached" is still doing healthy business. On its third weekend, it dropped 37% to $8.4 million. Its total is now $51.8 million, a good box-office performance for a movie that cost Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment only $25 million to make.

[Updated at 10:46 a.m.: "Black Swan" is also doing very strong business overseas for a low-budget specialty picture. This weekend, it added $12.8 million to its international total, which now stands at $48 million.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with foreign grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "The Roommate" (Sony Screen Gems): Opened to $15.6 million.

2. "Sanctum" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $9.2 million. $3.1 million overseas in two foreign markets.

3. "No Strings Attached" (Paramount/Spyglass/Cold Spring): $8.4 million on its third weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $51.8 million.

4. "The King's Speech" (The Weinstein Co.): $8.3 million on its 11th weekend, down 25%. Domestic total: $84.1 million.

5. "The Green Hornet" (Sony): $6.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $87.2 million. $16.7 million overseas in 73 foreign markets. International total: $83.8 million.

6. "The Rite" (Warner Bros./New Line): $5.6 million on its second weekend, down 62%. Domestic total: $23.7 million.

7. "The Mechanic" (CBS): $5.4 million on its second weekend, down 53%. Domestic total: $20.1 million.

8. "True Grit" (Paramount/Skydance): $4.8 million on its seventh weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $155 million.

9. "The Dilemma" (Universal/Spyglass): $3.4 million on its fourth weekend, down 39%. Domestic total: $45.7 million. $2.6 million overseas in 23 foreign markets. International total: $14.4 million.

10. "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight): $3.4 million on its 10th weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $95.9 million. $12.8 million overseas in 28 foreign markets. International total: $48 million.]

-- Amy Kaufman and Ben Fritz

Photos, from top: Minka Kelly, left, and Leighton Meester in "The Roommate." Credit: Jaimie Trueblood / Sony Pictures. Rhys Wakefield in "Sanctum." Credit: Jasin Boland / Universal Pictures

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