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Box office: 'The Town' surprisingly takes No. 1 spot over 'Easy A' as 'Devil,' 'Alpha and Omega' limp behind [updated]

September 19, 2010 |  9:49 am

Town In a surprise victory for an adult-targeted film that debuted alongside three movies aimed at younger audiences, Ben Affleck's crime drama "The Town" proved most popular at the box office this weekend.

The Boston-set heist film directed by and co-starring Affleck sold $23.8 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. The high school comedy "Easy A," which had looked most likely to be No. 1 based on pre-release surveys, ended up with a solid $18.2 million. Horror thriller "Devil" came in with a slightly disappointing $12.6 million, and the animated 3-D family film "Alpha and Omega" took in just $9.2 million.

Tracking polls had shown "The Town" gaining momentum before its opening, but most in Hollywood were hesitant to project that the film would take the top spot largely because it was appealing to an older audience -- a demographic that is less likely to come to movies on their opening weekends. Very strong reviews and press attention coming out of the Toronto Film Festival drew in more adults than expected, and they made up 75% of the opening weekend crowds. Those who came mostly liked the movie, giving it an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

With healthy buzz coming out of the weekend, "The Town" should play well for at least a few weeks in theaters and bring in more than $80 million before finishing its domestic run. That's a good performance for a movie that was produced for $37 million by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

Sony Pictures' genre label Screen Gems is also in a good place with "Easy A," even though the comedy didn't end up in the No. 1 spot. The "Scarlet Letter"-inspired tale set in a contemporary high school cost only about $8 million to produce, and in a surprise for its genre, the movie got very good reviews. The mostly young and female audience liked the picture as well, giving it an average grade of A-.

The same wasn't true for "Devil," which got a weak CinemaScore of C+. The M. Night Shyamalan-produced film about a group of people stuck in an elevator with the titular creature performed best in late-night shows in major cities. Despite the soft gross, distributor Universal Pictures expects to come out OK on the film. It paid Media Rights Capital, which made "Devil," about $27 million for worldwide distribution rights.

Lionsgate expects to make a profit on "Alpha and Omega" despite the animated family film's tepid performance. Produced in India by Crest Entertainment, Lionsgate didn't take a major financial risk on the picture, which played mostly to young children and their parents. However, its opening is particularly unimpressive given that it got a box-office boost from higher ticket prices in 3-D theaters.

NeverLetMeGo The British drama "Never Let Me Go" had a strong opening in limited release, generating an estimated $120,830 at four theaters in Los Angeles and New York, or $30,208 per location. The wistful alternate reality tale starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield has brought in $165,331 since its Wednesday debut. Fox Searchlight will expand it to an additional 22 theaters in 11 cities on Friday.

The controversial Sundance Film Festival favorite "Catfish" -- a documentary that had many attendees questioning its authenticity -- also got off to a good start, grossing $255,000 at 12 theaters, including five in Los Angeles. The average take per theater for the story about a bizarre online romance was $21,271.

Relativity Media bought "Catfish" at Sundance in January and is distributing the picture through a deal with Universal, which plans to add about 40 more theaters in 19 cities on Friday.

The Philip Seymour Hoffman off-Broadway play adaptation "Jack Goes Boating" didn't do too well in limited release. It brought in just $30,000, or an average of $7,500 from each of its four theaters in L.A. and New York.

[Update, 10:45 a.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and, along with international ticket sales when available:

1. "The Town" (Warner Bros./Legendary): Opened to $23.8 million. $2.2 million overseas in one foreign market (France).

2. "Easy A" (Sony Screen Gems): Opened to $18.2 million. $1.2 million overseas in one foreign market (Australia).

3. "Devil" (Universal/Relativity/MRC): Opened to $12.6 million. $2.3 million overseas in seven foreign markets.

4. "Resident Evil: Afterlife" (Sony Screen Gems / Constantin): $10.1 million on its second weekend, down 62%. $38.7 million overseas in 44 foreign markets. Domestic total: $44 million. International total: $103.2 million.

5. "Alpha and Omega" (Lionsgate/Crest): Opened to $9.2 million.

6. "Takers" (Sony Screen Gems): $3 million on its fourth weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $52.3 million.

7. "The American" (Focus): $2.8 million on its third weekend, down 51%. Domestic total: $32.9 million.

8. "Inception" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $2 million on its tenth weekend, down 28%. $10.2 million overseas in 60 foreign markets. Domestic total: $285. 2 million. International total: $468.2 million.

9. "The Other Guys" (Sony/Relativity): $2 million on its seventh weekend, down 40%. $5.5 million overseas in 17 foreign markets. Domestic total: $115.4 million. International total: $9 million.

10. "Machete" (Fox/Troublemaker): $1.7 million on its third weekend, down 60%. Domestic total: $24.3 million.

For the Record, 5:35 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that "Castfish" had grossed $178,267.]

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Blake Lively and Ben Affleck in "The Town." Credit: Claire Folger / Warner Bros.

Bottom photo: Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley in "Never Let Me Go." Credit: Alex Bailey / Fox Searchlight