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Box Office: 'Real Steel' just shimmies past 'Footloose' for No. 1 [Updated]

October 16, 2011 |  9:17 am

Footloose took the No 2 spot at the box office this weekend

It was almost paradise for a remake of the classic '80s flick "Footloose" at the box office this weekend.

After Friday ticket sales were tallied, it seemed that the dance reboot was off to a good enough start that the movie would be able to sustain the momentum needed to claim the weekend's No. 1 spot. But as the weekend progressed, the sci-fi action film "Real Steel" picked up steam. In its second week of release, the movie starring Hugh Jackman ultimately saw its ticket sales drop 40% to $16.3 million, bringing its domestic total to $51.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Pictures. "Footloose," meanwhile, ended up with a slightly lower weekend tally of $16.1 million.

The other two debuts in wide release had far more disappointing opening weekends. "The Thing," a prequel to the 1982 horror thriller, collected a lackluster $8.7 million. And "The Big Year" will go down as one of the biggest flops of the year. The comedy, which had a moderate budget and stars Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, grossed an absolutely dismal $3.3 million.

Overall, it was a weak weekend at the box office. Ticket sales were down 32% compared with the same weekend in 2010. And revenue for 2011 is still off about 4%, while attendance has fallen roughly 6% since last year.

The original “Footloose," starring Kevin Bacon as a rebellious teenager seeking to overturn a dance ban in his small town, grossed more than $80 million worldwide when it was released in 1984. After a so-so start, it's unclear if the new incarnation will reach similar box office heights.

The good news for Paramount is that audiences who saw the film this weekend loved it, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The movie appealed mostly to females, who comprised 75% of the audience. 

Throughout the past month, the studio, which produced the film for about $24 million, has sent the movie's neophyte cast zigzagging across the country on an extensive promotional tour. The Craig Brewer-directed film was screened for everyone from cheerleaders to church youth groups, and as a result this weekend the movie ended up doing especially well in places like Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City.

“The Thing," which also featured a largely unknown cast, did not go over as well with audiences. Those who saw the film — 57% of whom were male, 56% of whom under the age of 30 — gave it an average grade of B-minus.

The film, set in Antartica where a team is tasked with trying to understand a mysterious alien creature, was financed by Universal Pictures for about $38 million.

Overseas, where Universal is distributing the picture on behalf of Morgan Creek Productions, "The Thing" opened in five countries including Australia this weekend and grossed $1.5 million there. 

Despite having three major comedy stars in its film, "The Big Year" failed to attract moviegoers this weekend. The picture, which centers around competitive bird watchers, proved to be a difficult sell for 20th Century Fox. The studio co-financed the movie with Dune Entertainment for about $41 million before Canadian tax credits. But those financial backers will likely end up in the red because word-of-mouth on the movie isn't expected to good — audiences gave it an average grade of only B-minus.  

In 2011, the only major studio release to fare worse on its opening weekend than "The Big Year" was Sony's "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star," which debuted with $1.4 million in September. Martin hasn't had a film do as poorly in wide release since 1994's "Mixed Nuts," the Nora Ephron comedy that opened to $2.3 million. Black's "Tenacious D in  the Pick of Destiny" made just slightly more in 2006 with its $3.2-million launch. And Wilson's worst-ever opening, "The Big Bounce," also opened to $3.3 million in 2004.

[Updated at 12:01 p.m., Oct. 16: It was a good weekend for Sony Pictures at the box office. "The Ides of March," the George Clooney-directed political drama the studio released last weekend, only had a 28% dip in ticket sales. That means the modestly-budgeted picture seems to be benefiting from strong word-of-mouth and could end up being a solid performer for the studio if it holds up in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Sony's animated film "The Smurfs" passed the $400-million mark overseas. The family film is still playing in 10 foreign countries, this weekend selling the most tickets in Australia. To date, the movie has grossed about $140 million domestically and an impressive $403.5 million abroad.

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

1. "Real Steel" (Disney/DreamWorks): $16.3 million on its second weekend, down 40%. $23.3 million overseas in 28 foreign markets. Domestic total: $51.7 million. International total: $56.6 million.

2. "Footloose" (Paramount): Opened to $16.1 million. $1.7 million overseas in eight foreign markets. International total: $3.3 million.

3. "The Thing" (Universal): Opened to $8.7 million. Opened overseas in five foreign markets, grossing $1.5 million.

4.  "The Ides of March" (Sony/Cross Creek): $7.3 million on its second weekend, down 28%. Domestic total: $22.2 million.

5. "Dolphin Tale" (Warner Bros./Alcon): $6.3 million on its fourth weekend, down 31%. Domestic total: $58.7 million.

6. "Moneyball" (Sony): $5.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 26%. Opened overseas in one foreign market, grossing $450,000. Domestic total: $57.7 million.

7. "50/50" (Summit/Mandate): $4.3 million on its third weekend, down 24%. Domestic total: $24.3 million. 

8. "Courageous" (Sony): $3.4 million on its third weekend, down 30%. Domestic total: $21.4 million.

9. "The Big Year" (Fox/Dune): Opened to $3.3 million.

10. "The Lion King 3-D" (Disney): $2.7 million on its fifth weekend, down 41%. $5.2 million overseas in 31 foreign markets. Domestic total: $90.5 million. International total: $37.5 million.]

RELATED:

Movie review: 'Footloose'

Movie review: 'The Big Year'

Movie Projector: New 'Footloose' could dance circles around rivals

— Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Miles Teller, left, dances with Kenny Wormald in "Footloose." Credit: Paramount

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