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Box Office: Fourth 'Underworld' film is No. 1 on strong weekend [Updated]

January 22, 2012 |  9:04 am
"Underworld Awakening," here with star Kate Beckinsale, was the No. 1 film at the weekend box office.

It continues to be a strong month at the box office, with the fourth installment of Sony Pictures' "Underworld" series debuting to healthy ticket sales over the weekend.

The vampire film starring Kate Beckinsale, "Underworld: Awakening," opened to $25.4 million, according to an estimate from the studio's Screen Gems label. Meanwhile, the George Lucas-produced "Red Tails" —  about the Tuskegee Airmen — exceeded industry expectations, selling $19.1 million worth of tickets.

"Haywire," Steven Soderbergh's action thriller starring mixed martial arts star Gina Carano, had a less impressive opening of only $9 million. That trailed the $10.5 million the 9/11 drama "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Loud" made as it expanded from limited release to theaters nationwide.

PHOTOS: Top ten at the box office

Consequently, ticket sales were up for the third week in a row in January compared with the same period in 2011, with a 32% increase this weekend from the same weekend last year.

"Underworld: Awakening" cost Sony and Lakeshore Entertainment about $70 million to produce. The film is the first in the vampire series to be offered in 3-D, and 59% of those who saw the movie this weekend opted to buy the pricier ticket to see it in that format. Audiences liked the film, assigning it an average grade of A-, according to marketing firm CinemaScore.

"Awakening" had a better opening than the third entry in the series, "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," which started off with $20.8 million in 2009. It still debuted with slightly less than the franchise's second installment, "Underworld: Evolution," which opened to $26.9 million in 2006. That film ultimately grossed more than any other picture in the series, totaling $62.3 million in sales by the end of its run.

"Red Tails," starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard, was a passion project for Lucas. While 20th Century Fox is distributing the movie, the "Star Wars" filmmaker financed the $58-million production himself and is also paying for the marketing costs.

The movie appealed largely to an African American audience this weekend, and 66% of the crowd was over the age of 25. Those who saw the film loved it, giving it an average grade of A. Like the new "Underworld" film, "Red Tails" has received overwhelmingly negative reviews.

"Haywire" got the most love from critics, but audiences didn't like the movie, giving it a dismal D+ CinemaScore. The movie — which cost Relativity Media $23 million to produce before tax rebates — resonated with young moviegoers, as 64% of the audience was under the age of 35.

The movie got off to a far worse start than Soderbergh's last film, "Contagion," the global pandemic thriller that debuted with $22.4 million last September.

Since opening on Christmas Day, "Extremely Loud" had collected $671,502 from six theaters before the weekend began. Warner Bros. decided to wait to open the film nationwide in hopes of building on strong word-of-mouth, but the movie ended up garnering mixed reviews. Audiences responded well to it this weekend, assigning it an average grade of A-.

The movie played to an older demographic, with 82% of the crowd over 25. The movie appealed to a broad audience across the country: The No. 1 theater in the U.S. was in Oklahoma City, and other top markets included cities as diverse as Boca Raton, Fla., and Chino Hills.

[Updated 12:37 p.m., Jan. 22:Overseas, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" debuted ahead of its U.S. opening in six countries. The film got off to a strong start with a total of $8.2 million from a handful of Asian markets, including Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The film, a sequel to 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth," performed best in Korea, where it collected $2.7 million.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office this weekend, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and

1. "Underworld: Awakening"(Sony/Lakeshore): Opened to $25.4 million. $13.4 million overseas in 35 foreign markets.

2. "Red Tails" (Fox/Lucasfilm): Opened to $19.1 million.

3. "Contraband" (Universal/Relativity): $12.2 million on its second weekend, down 50%. $1.8 million overseas in 16 foreign markets. Domestic total: $46.1 million. International total: $3.8 million.

4. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (Warner Bros.): $10.5 million on its first weekend in wide release. Domestic total: $11.2 million.

5. "Haywire" (Relativity): Opened to $9 million.

6. "Beauty and the Beast 3-D" (Disney): $8.6 million on its second weekend, down 52%. $330,000 overseas in three foreign markets. Domestic total: $33.4 million.

7. "Joyful Noise" (Warner Bros./Alcon): $6.1 million on its second weekend, down 46%. Domestic total: $21.9 million.

8. "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol"(Paramount/Skydance): $5.5 million on its sixth weekend, down 53%. $9.4 million overseas in 58 foreign markets. Domestic total: $197.3 million. International total: $336.7 million.

9. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $4.8 million on its sixth weekend, down 44%. $18.1 million overseas in 57 foreign markets. Domestic total: $178.6 million. International total: $261 million.

10. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (Sony/MGM): $3.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 44%. $15.7 million overseas in 53 foreign markets. Domestic total: $94.8 million. International total: $70.8 million.]


Movie review: 'Red Tails'

Kate Beckinsale: ‘Underworld’ role a ‘personal experiment’

Movie Projector: Fourth 'Underworld' to soar higher than 'Red Tails'

— Amy Kaufman

Photo: Kate Beckinsale stars in "Underworld: Awakening." Credit: Sony Pictures