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'Cowboys & Aliens' narrowly beats 'Smurfs' to top the box office

August 1, 2011 |  1:09 pm

Cowboys

It turns out that a legion of pint-sized blue cartoon characters didn't quite have enough strength to take down two big Hollywood stars at the box office this weekend after all.

On Sunday, the studios behind "The Smurfs" and "Cowboys & Aliens" estimated that the films would each collect $36.2 million by weekend's end. But when the actual numbers were reported Monday, "Cowboys," a sci-fi western starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, narrowly claimed the No. 1 spot with $36.4 million in ticket sales, according to distributor Universal Pictures.

"The Smurfs," Sony Pictures' PG-rated computer-animated/live-action hybrid, ended up with a slightly lower tally of $35.6 million.

Aside from bragging rights, winning the weekend doesn't mean much for "Cowboys." The film, which financial backers Universal, Relativity Media and Dreamworks SKG said cost about $163 million to make, still has a long way to go before it recoups its production costs as well as its advertising costs, which also run in the tens of millions.

And "Cowboys" only received an average grade of B from those who saw the picture this weekend, according to market research firm CinemaScore, indicating that its word of mouth may not be great in weeks to come.

"The Smurfs," meanwhile, went over better with audiences. The 3-D film, which had a budget of about $110 million, garnered an average grade of A-. Its only competition in the kid-friendly category is next weekend's debut of the "Glee" 3-D concert film, which means "Smurfs" could continue to play well domestically for weeks to come.

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-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Harrison Ford, left, with Daniel Craig in "Cowboys & Aliens." Credit: Universal Pictures

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