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'Up in the Air' takes off in limited release as box office keeps booming

December 6, 2009 | 11:29 am
UpAir Strong reviews and an early awards win drove "Up in the Air" to a spectacular takeoff, as the George Clooney drama sold a studio-estimated $1.2 million worth of tickets in just 15 theaters.

That's the third-biggest opening in limited release for any movie this year and by far the most impressive debut of any film this weekend.

Despite soft starts for "Brothers," "Armored," "Everybody's Fine" and "Transylmania," overall ticket sales grew 22.6% from the same weekend a year ago, according to The weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally a very slow one at the box office.

"Up in the Air" collected an average of $79,000 at each of its 15 theaters. That's more than any other movie this year except "The Princess and the Frog" -- which has benefited over the last two weeks from ticket prices as high as $50 for a multi-hour "experience" at two locations in Los Angeles and New York -- and "Precious."  It's also more than director Jason Reitman's previous two pictures, "Juno" and "Thank You for Smoking," which went on to gross $143.5 million and $24.8 million, respectively.

Paramount, which co-financed "Up in the Air" with Montecito Picture Co. at a cost of $25 million, will expand the movie over the next few weeks until it is playing nationwide by Christmas.

Alcon Entertainment's "The Blind Side" took the top spot at the box office, as it declined a relatively modest 49% after a spectacular Thanksgiving.

Brothers "Brothers," financed by Relativity Media for $26 million and distributed by Lionsgate, opened to a soft $9.7 million. Audiences gave it an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Combined with very mixed reviews from critics, it remained to be seen whether the war drama directed by Jim Sheridan will hold on at the box office or fade quickly.

Sony's action thriller "Armored," Miramax's family comedy "Everybody's Fine" and Full Circle's horror comedy "Transylmania" all had weak debuts, launching to $6.6 million, $4 million and $274,000, respectively.

Overseas, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" remains very strong, grossing $40.7 million this weekend, much more than the $15.7 million it collected domestically. Sony's "2012," meanwhile, took in $35 million overseas, bringing its international total to a phenomenal $517.5 million.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and

1. "The Blind Side" (Warner Bros./Alcon): $20.4 million, down 49% on its third weekend. Domestic total: $129.3 million.

2. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (Summit): $15.7 million on its third weekend, off 63%. Total domestic ticket sales: $255.6 million. International: $314.5 million.

3. "Brothers" (Lionsgate/Relativity): $9.7 million debut.

4. "A Christmas Carol" (Disney): Fell 52% on its fifth weekend to $7.5 million. $115 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales so far.

5. "Old Dogs" (Disney): Dropped 59% on its second weekend to $6.9 million, bringing its total to $33.9 million.

6. "Armored" (Sony): Opened to $6.6 million.

6. "2012" (Sony): $6.6 million on its fourth weekend, a decline of 63%. $148.8 million domestic total. Foreign total: $517.5 million.

8. "Ninja Assassin" (Warner Bros./Dark Castle/Legendary): 62% drop on its second weekend to $5 million, bringing ticket sales thus far to $29.8 million.

9. "Planet 51" (Sony/Ilion): $4.3 million, off 58% on its third weekend. Domestic total: $34 million.

10. "Everybody's Fine" (Miramax/Radar): $4 million debut.

--Ben Fritz

Top photo: Anna Kendrick and George Clooney in "Up in the Air." Credit: Dale Robinette / DreamWorks Studios  Bottom photo: Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Brothers." Credit: Lorey Sebastian / Lionsgate