Abracadabra! ‘Prestige’ Leads A Mediocre Box-Office Weekend

'The Departed' holds #2; 'Flags of Our Fathers debuts at #3.

The Top Five

#1 “The Prestige” ($14.8 million)
#2 “The Departed” ($13.7 million)
#3 “Flags of Our Fathers” ($10 million)
#4 “Open Season” ($8 million)
#5 (tie) “Flicka” ($7.7 million)
#5 (tie) “The Grudge 2″ ($7.7 million)

Insert your favorite magic cliché here: “The Prestige” conjured up — sorry, couldn’t resist — the top spot at the box office this weekend with a tally of $14.8 million — or how much money David Copperfield might pay David Blaine to just go away.

Despite leading the pack, those numbers for “The Prestige,” — a tale of cunning magician rivals that garnered solid reviews and boasted the talents of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Batman (Christian Bale) — can’t be called overly impressive.

Even more disappointing is the performance of the eagerly anticipated “Flags of Our Fathers,” which opened in third place with just $10 million. Clint Eastwood’s World War II tale of the men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima seemed to be primed for Oscar glory — and might still be — but a little more money in the opening frame would have been nice. “Flags” will need strong word of mouth for it to survive the unrelenting fall schedule of Oscar bait and crowd pleasers.

Speaking of word of mouth, “The Departed” is clearly continuing to benefit from audiences eating up the salty dialogue and stylish violence of Martin Scorsese’s latest. Holding steady in second place, its gross is up to $77.1 million after three weeks. Breaking the $100 million barrier now appears as inevitable as Marty getting stiffed by the Academy.

Look Closer
While they didn’t quite break the top five, attention should be paid to two films in limited release. Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” is proving not everyone hates the French, earning an impressive $5.3 million in just 859 theaters. And the nightmare is far from over for Tim Burton as his “The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D” took in a stellar $3.3 million in 168 theaters.

In Perspective
War is hell but it can also be profitable if it’s in the hands of a master filmmaker like Steven Spielberg. Ever since he stunned audiences with his jaw-dropping recreation of the storming of Normandy in the opening frames of 1998′s “Saving Private Ryan”, riveting moviegoers all the way to blockbuster numbers, Hollywood’s been a little less shy about taking on stories about the greatest generation (witness Eastwood’s latest). But none have come close to what the “E.T.” auteur accomplished.

  • “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) $216.5 million
  • “The Thin Red Line” (1998) $36.4 million
  • “Windtalkers” (2002) $40.9 million
  • “The Great Raid” (2005) $10.1 million

Next week
Just about everyone’s cleared out for “Saw III”. Audiences know what they’re going to get and so do we … a new #1 movie at the box office.

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Prestige” and “Flags of Our Fathers”.

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