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Box Office: Bradley Cooper's 'Limitless' breaks out in top 5 horse race [Updated]

March 20, 2011 |  9:47 am

LimMoviegoers had their pick of two good-looking leading men at the box office this weekend, but they made their choice clear: Bradley Cooper. His film "Limitless" beat out Matthew McConaughey's "The Lincoln Lawyer," grossing a solid $19 million in ticket sales, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity Media. "The Lincoln Lawyer" collected a moderate $13.4 million, barely besting the weekend's other new release, "Paul," which debuted to a similar $13.2 million.

All three films faced heavy competition from movies that were already in theaters. "Rango," Paramount's computer-animated family film featuring the voice of Johnny Depp, only dropped 32%, grossing $15.3 million on its third weekend in theaters. Meanwhile, "Battle: Los Angeles," the Sony action film that opened last weekend, fell 59%, adding $14.6 million to its $60.6-million domestic total.

Most of the moviegoers who went to see "Limitless," a psychological thriller that costars Robert De Niro, were 25 and older. The film attracted both genders in nearly equal measure, and audiences who saw the film seemed to like it, giving it an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The movie cost about $27 million to make. It enjoyed the best opening to date for Relativity Media since it started distributing its own films last year.

"The Lincoln Lawyer's" box-office tally was likely bolstered by a special deal with the discount e-mail service Groupon, which for 48 hours last week offered tickets to the film for $6 a pop. A total of 190,000 tickets were sold through the promotion, according to a person familiar with the situation, and about 40,000 people used the discount through Saturday night.

Linc The film's box-office tally this weekend is based on the regular ticket price for Groupon users who paid only $6, meaning that the film's ticket-sale grosses are slightly inflated. Distributor Lionsgate compensated theaters for the difference between the $6 discount and the full ticket price.

"The Lincoln Lawyer," which cost about $40 million to produce, was primarily financed by Lakeshore Entertainment with a minority investment by Lionsgate. Audiences enjoyed the positively reviewed film more than any other new release this weekend, giving it an average grade of A-. More females went to see the movie than males, and 85% of the audience was older than 25.

"Paul," which centers around two men who encounter a comical extraterrestial, was co-financed by Relativity and distributor Universal Pictures for about $40 million. The movie, which is the latest comedy from British "Shaun of the Dead" costars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, also received a grade of B-plus from audiences. Those who went to see the sci-fi flick were mostly men, slightly more of whom were older than 25.

The film's opening far exceeded the $5.8-million debut of 2007's "Hot Fuzz," which featured Pegg and Frost and Pegg co-wrote. That comedy went on to gross $23.6 million domestically.

Universal is counting on "Paul" bringing in more money from overseas than the U.S. and Canada. It opened internationally in mid-February and added $1.3 million to its healthy foreign total this weekend, which now stands at $28.1 million from five foreign markets. Britain and France have been its most lucrative markets thus far.

In limited release, "Win Win" from Fox Searchlight opened in five theaters. The film, which stars Paul Giamatti as a suburban wrestling coach, grossed $153,613 and had a per-theater average of $30,723. That wasn't enough to beat the record of $45,579 set by Focus Features' "Jane Eyre" last weekend. After expanding from four theaters to 26 on its second weekend in release, the film based on the classic 19th century Charlotte Bronte novel brought in $477,696, lifting its box office total to $730,901.

[Updated at 10:56 a.m.: Overseas, "Battle: L.A." (which is called "World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles" in some locations to broaden its appeal) had a strong opening in China. The film collected $11.8 million in the country, where the film had the widest-ever release for a foreign picture. The China receipts comprised 40% of the film's international weekend gross, bringing its overseas tally to $51.9 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. "Limitless" (Relativity): Opened to $19 million.

2. "Rango" (Paramount): $15.3 million in its third weekend, down 32%. Domestic total: $92.6 million. $20 million in 54 foreign markets. International total: $73 million.

3. "Battle: Los Angeles" (Sony/Relativity): $14.6 million in its second weekend, down 59%. Domestic total: $60.6 million. $29 million in 55 foreign markets. International total: $51.9 million.

4. "The Lincoln Lawyer" (Lionsgate/Lakeshore): Opened to $13.4 million.

5. "Paul" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $13.2 million. $1.3 million in five foreign markets. International total: $28.1 million.

6. "Red Riding Hood" (Warner Bros.): $7.3 million in its second weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $26 million. $3.8 million in nine foreign markets. International total: $5.6 million.

7. "The Adjustment Bureau" (MRC/Universal): $5.9 million in its third weekend, down 49%. Domestic total: $48.8 million. $5.6 million in 38 foreign markets. International total: $32.3 million.

8. "Mars Needs Moms" (Disney): $5.3 million in its second weekend, down 23%. Domestic total: $15.4 million. $3.4 million in 21 foreign markets. International total: $7.8 million.

9. "Beastly" (CBS Films): $3.3 million in its third weekend, down 35%. Domestic total: $22.2 million.

10. "Hall Pass" (Warner Bros.): $2.6 million in its fourth weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $39.6 million. $3.6 million in 19 foreign markets. International total: $14.3 million.]

-- Amy Kaufman

Photos, from top: Bradley Cooper stars in "Limitless." Credit: Relativity Media. Matthew McConaughey stars in "The Lincoln Lawyer." Credit: Lionsgate

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