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First look: 'Extraordinary Measures' has less than ordinary start, 'Avatar' not slowing

January 24, 2010 |  9:09 am

Extra1 The No. 1 broadcast network got a lesson in big screen disappointment this weekend.

"Extraordinary Measures," the first release from CBS Films, debuted to an anemic $7 million, according to a studio estimate. "Avatar," meanwhile, once again dominated the box office charts with a very small decline, while Sony Pictures' post-apocalyptic thriller "Legion" had a good launch and 20th Century Fox and Walden Media's family comedy "The Tooth Fairy" started softly.

Continuing a string of underperforming adult dramas in 2009, "Measures,' which stars Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser, failed to find much of an audience despite an extensive marketing campaign undertaken largely on CBS' own television shows and outdoor billboards.

The movie, which cost $31 million to produce, performed best in smaller towns in the Southeast and Midwest and particularly poorly in Los Angeles and New York City. In a glimmer of good news, the audience was mostly older and female, a demographic that turns out more often after a movie's first weekend than others, and the average grade by those who did attend was A-, meaning word-of-mouth should be good.

The news was just a little better for "Tooth Fairy," the new family comedy starring Dwayne Johnson that was co-financed by 20th Century Fox and Walden Media at a cost of $48 million. It opened to an unimpressive $14.5 million, below such recent family comedies starring Johnson as "Race to Witch Mountain" and "The Game Plan," which started with $24.4 million and $23 million, respectively.

"Legion," from Sony's low-budget genre label Screen Gems, sold $18.2 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada, a good debut for a movie that cost about $25 million to produce. Unsurprisingly, the bloody and effects-heavy thriller drew a mostly male crowd.

Once again, however, the big winner at the box office was "Avatar," which dominated for the sixth weekend in a row with a spectacular $36 million estimated domestic take, bringing its total to $552.8 million. Ticket sales declined only 16%, showing that the big budget 3-D blockbuster from director James Cameron isn't slowing down at all as it surpassed "The Dark Knight" this weekend to become the second highest ToSaveALifegrossing movie in the U.S. and Canada ever, not accounting for ticket price inflation. It should pass the $600.8 million total of the No. 1 movie, Cameron's "Titanic," in the next two weeks.

In a limited release of 448 theaters, Christian teen movie "To Save a Life" had a decent $1.5 million opening. The movie, which was released by IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films, cost only $500,000 to produce and saw its strongest ticket sales in smaller markets in Texas, Florida and Georgia, as well as Oceanside, Calif., outside of San Diego.

Both major films that opened last weekend, "The Book of Eli" and "The Lovely Bones," saw average declines of 48%, indicating that they're neither falling off quickly nor showing particularly strong momentum. Post-apocalyptic adventure "Eli," which was financed by Alcon Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros, is at a healthy total of $62 million after 10 days, while Paramount's adaptation of the bestselling book "Bones," directed by Peter Jackson of "Lord of the Rings" fame, is at a so-so $31.6 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in "Extraordinary Measures." Photo credit: Marie Weismiller Wallace / CBS Films

Bottom photo: Randy Wayne and Deja Kreutzberg in "To Save a Life." Photo credit: C. Clifford Jones / Samuel Goldwyn Films