‘Resident Evil’ Tops Slumping Box Office

Pixar's 3-D re-release of 'Finding Nemo' was #2 during the second-worst weekend of the year.

“Resident Evil: Retribution” topped the box office over the weekend and “Finding Nemo 3D” made a splash as well. But even as “The Master” debuted with the strongest per-screen average of the year, ticket sales were still down overall.

It was the second-worst weekend of the year for movie theaters, only beating out last weekend’s returns, which were the worst since the one after 9/11. Box-office receipts were down 19 percent from the same period last year, according to Box Office Mojo.

The fifth “Resident Evil” movie was #1 with an estimated $21.1 million debut, which was lower than the debuts of all of the previous sequels. The first “Resident Evil” made $17.7 million when it opened in 2002, but actually sold more tickets (hello, inflation). Again featuring Milla Jovovich as Alice, the sci-fi action flick was produced for a reported budget of $65 million.

The 3-D re-release of Pixar’s 2003 animated fish tale “Finding Nemo” was #2 with $17.5 million. Box-office analysts had predicted a close race between “Nemo” and “Resident Evil,” putting the “Nemo” haul between $25 and $30 million. That would have been on par with the 3-D re-release of “The Lion King.” The real number was closer to “Beauty and the Beast 3D.” Disney has future 3-D re-releases planned for flicks including “Monsters, Inc.” (another Pixar classic) and “The Little Mermaid.”

Despite playing in just five locations in New York and Los Angeles, “The Master” was the biggest success story of the weekend. The sixth film from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (not to be confused with “Resident Evil” franchise mastermind Paul W.S. Anderson) collected $729,745 in its debut or a per-screen average of $130,752.

Loosely based on the history of Scientology, “The Master” has generated awards-season buzz for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” was nominated for eight Academy Awards in 2008, including Best Picture.

This weekend’s new releases include “Dredd 3D,” based on the exploits of British comic book hero Judge Dredd; horror flick “House at the End of the Street” starring Jennifer Lawrence; and “End of Watch,” a cop drama with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Resident Evil: Retribution”