How ‘Inception’ Beat ‘Salt’ At The Box Office

Angelina Jolie spy flick can't overcome the dream thriller's buzz.

Christopher Nolan can’t quit winning. His 2005 “Batman Begins” held the top box-office spot for two straight weeks, followed by “The Prestige,” which nabbed that slot in 2006. Then along came 2008′s “The Dark Knight” with four straight weekend wins.

Was there ever any doubt that “Inception,” his new thriller about the world of shared dreams, would tear up the multiplex for a long time?

Actually, there was. After opening to $62.8 million, “Inception” was expected to finish second at this past weekend’s box office, giving way to Angelina Jolie’s spy flick “Salt.” But by the time the weekend was over, the Leonardo DiCaprio-starring “Inception” was once again the top ticket-seller .

Was this a case of Angie faltering or Leo soaring? What exactly went down at the box office?

“Sensational word-of-mouth,” said Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations.

No matter how bankable Jolie remains as an action star, “Inception” was riding a wave of critical and audience buzz that could not be defeated.

While most blockbusters fall more than 50 percent in their second weekend, Nolan’s flick dropped just 31 percent. As Box Office Mojo points out, a movie in that genre hasn’t experienced such a small drop since “The Matrix” in 1999.

Jolie’s movie, then, never really had a chance.

” ‘Salt’ had a solid opening and did exactly what I was expecting of it,” said Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru.

For a film not based on an existing entertainment property — like “Inception,” a real rarity in Hollywood these days — the $36.5 million bow was a very respectable one. We might question the wisdom of scheduling the movie’s release so close to that of “Inception,” because of the films’ potentially similar demographic, but Sony is likely pleased with how “Salt” performed.

“Credit Angelina Jolie and her big guns,” Bock said. “She is the only woman in Hollywood right now that can open an action film with such boffo box office.”

In the end, though, not even Jolie’s guns could subdue all of the positive water-cooler chatter about “Inception.”

“The buzz has been incredible, and it has quickly become the must-see event movie of the summer,” Pandya said. “I see it eventually outgrossing the latest ‘Twilight’ film and breaking the $300 million mark in North America alone. This is an old-fashioned case of a good movie selling itself.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Inception.”

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