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Box Office: Surprisingly strong 'Puss in Boots' claws 'Tower Heist' [Updated]

Puss in Boots was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend

"Puss in Boots" pulled a robbery on "Tower Heist" at the box office, claiming the No. 1 spot for the second consecutive weekend.

The animated 3-D film debuted in the top spot last weekend, and was expected to fall behind the Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" in its second week of release. But the movie from DreamWorks Animation held up surprisingly well: Its ticket sales fell only 3%, as the film raked in an additional $33 million, the studio estimated. The picture has now collected a total of $75.5 million in North America.

"Tower Heist" pocketed a lower-than-projected $25.1 million. The other new movie in wide release, "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," grossed a soft $13.1 million on its first weekend in theaters. It was a weak weekend at the box office overall, with sales down 25% from the same period last year.

About a group of employees attempting to steal money from their wealthy neighbor in a Manhattan high-rise, "Tower Heist" was directed by Brett Ratner and produced by Brian Grazer. The movie cost distributor Universal Pictures and co-financier Relativity Media about $75 million to make, after tax rebates.

The film appealed mostly to an older crowd, with 62% of the audience over the age of 35. Those who saw the picture — 56% of whom were female — gave it an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The movie almost didn't play in a number of large theater chains this weekend, as exhibitors threatened not to screen it after Universal said it would release "Tower Heist" via video-on-demand just three weeks after its theatrical debut. Theater owners balked at the studio's proposal to offer the movie for $59.99 to cable subscribers in two U.S. cities, fearing it would hurt ticket sales at the multiplex. However, Universal last month canceled the early video-on-demand roll-out.

"Tower Heist" got off to a stronger start than Murphy's last two live-action films, the 2009 family movie "Imagine That," and the 2008 comedy "Meet Dave." Neither of those pictures came close to topping even the $20-million mark at the domestic box office by the end of their theatrical runs.

Still, "Tower Heist" will not end up being as big a success as "Coming to America" or "Beverly Hills Cop." The latter, released at the height of Murphy's popularity in 1984, made more than $230 million in the U.S. and spawned two more installments,

The weekend's results leave open the question of whether Murphy holds enough clout to boost Oscar ratings. The comedian has been hired to host the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 26, which is being produced by Ratner.

"Tower Heist" also opened in 21 foreign markets this weekend, collecting $9.5 million abroad. It best in Britain, where it debuted in the No. 3 spot with $2.3 million. The picture has yet to open in 42 countries, including France, Russia and Italy.

The third entry in the "Harold & Kumar" comedy series opened to slightly more than the $14.9 million the second film debuted with in 2008. That movie, "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," ultimately grossed $34.5 million worldwide. 

The new film about the two stoners — the first in the franchise to be released in 3-D — was given an average grade of B by moviegoers. Of those who saw the film — 73% of whom were under the age of 35 — an overwhelming 95% opted to purchase a pricier 3-D ticket.

While the movie's start wasn't impressive, it cost New Line Cinema only about $19 million to produce. Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of distribution for Warner Bros., which is distributing the film, said "the real success for ‘Harold & Kumar’ films has been in home video. The box office has always been relatively modest, and the real strength has come from the male audience with DVD sales."

[Updated at 9:41 a.m., Nov. 6: "The Adventures of Tintin" continues to do brisk business overseas, where the film collected $40.8 million from 48 foreign countries this weekend. The movie performed best in France, where it opened last weekend and has already grossed almost $40 million. It also got off to a strong start in Russia with $5.9 million, which was 43% bigger than the opening of the animated film "The Smurfs" in that country earlier this year.  Overall, the Steven Spielberg-directed picture has sold $125.3 million worth of tickets so far 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. "Puss in Boots" (Paramount/DreamWorks Animation): $33 million on its second weekend, down 3%. $15 million overseas in four foreign markets. Domestic total: $75.5 million. International total: $39 million.

2. "Tower Heist" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $25.1 million. Opened overseas in 21 foreign markets, grossing $9.5 million.

3. "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" (Warner Bros./New Line): Opened to $13.1 million.

4. "Paranormal Activity 3" (Paramount): $8.5 million on its third weekend, down 53%. $14.1 million overseas in 50 foreign markets. Domestic total: $95.3 million. International total: $77.1 million.

5. "In Time" (Fox/New Regency): $7.4 million on its second weekend, down 36%. $16.6 million overseas in 52 foreign markets. Domestic total: $24.2 million. International total: $38.1 million.

6. "Footloose" (Paramount): $4.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 17%. $1.1 million overseas in 23 foreign markets. Domestic total: $44.8 million. International total: $10 million.

7. "Real Steel" (Disney/DreamWorks): $3.4 million on its fifth weekend, down 29%. $10.7 million overseas in 38 foreign markets. Domestic total: $78.8 million. International total: $127.2 million.

8. "The Rum Diary" (FilmDistrict/GK Films): $3 million on its second weekend, down 42%. Domestic total: $10.4 million.

9. "The Ides of March" (Sony/Cross Creek): $2 million on its fifth weekend, down 29%. Domestic total: $36.8 million.

10. "Moneyball" (Sony): $1.9 million on its seventh weekend, down 20%. Domestic total: $70.3 million.]

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— Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: A scene from "Puss in Boots." Credit: DreamWorks Animation

 
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