Box-office Fortune Tellers Need New Crystal Ball

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In the end, the box-office prognosticators were wrong again. There was not a tight, three-way contest for the top spot among the newcomers, as they had predicted. One of the three performed better than expected; two of them, worse than expected. And the box-office overall did not resume the winning streak that began before the start of the year. For the second week in a row it was down by double-digit percentage points. The box-office gurus did figure that the Nicolas Cage sci-fi action yarn Knowing probably had the inside track -- and on that they were right. But its estimated $24.8-million haul turned out to be not only far higher than expected but an especially painful slap in the face to movie critics who had lambasted the movie -- and nearly all of them did -- and had gone on to predict that it would become a box-office dud. (The movie's success also gave a big boost to its studio, Summit Entertainment, which produced another big hit, Twilight, a few months ago.) In second place was Paramount's R-rated I Love You, Man , which opened with $18 million, slightly lower than what analysts had predicted. And in third place the critically praised, Julia Roberts-Clive Owen drama Duplicity also came in at the low end of expectations with $14.4 million. Total box-office revenue was pegged at $107 million, down 5.2 percent from a year earlier. Two factors were primarily blamed on the downturn -- competition from March Madness on television and from Saturday's DVD release of Twilight on the other. Ratings for the NCAA basketball tourney went through the roof (see separate item) and sales of the Twilight DVD did the same, as more than 3 million copies were snatched up on Saturday alone.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers 1. Knowing , $24.8 million; 2. I Love You, Man , $18 million; 3. Duplicity, $14.4 million; 4. Race to Witch Mountain , $13 million; 5. Watchmen, $6.7 million; 6. The Last House on the Left , $5.9 million; 7. Taken, $4.1 million; 8. Slumdog Millionaire , $2.7 million; 9. Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail , $2.5 million; 10. Coraline , $2.1 million.



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