Two very different heist flicks went head-to-head over the weekend, and in a surprising upset, a rapier-wielding cartoon cat emerged victorious over two high-profile comedians. In a turn of events that was somewhat shocking to Hollywood, Eddie Murphy's return from the land of family-friendly fare alongside Ben Stiller in the PG-13 "Tower Heist" opened behind last weekend's #1 movie, "Puss in Boots."
Audiences continued to come out to watch the 3-D "Shrek" spinoff character snatch some magic beans from an evil Jack and Jill in "Puss in Boots" to the tune of $33 million, keeping the DreamWorks Animation flick at #1 with a $75.5 million domestic total. "Puss" dropped just three percent from its $33.04 million debut, which marked an unprecedentedly low non-holiday decline for a wide release.
Industry projections had put director Brett Ratner's "Tower Heist" in the #1 spot, but it failed to deliver, collecting just $25.1 million. The comedic crime caper cost a reported $75 million to produce and arrived with a huge publicity campaign. The generally press-shy Murphy even granted a rare cover story to Rolling Stone magazine while promoting the film. "Heist" has already outperformed both of Murphy's most recent live-action films, 2009's "Imagine That" and 2008's "Meet Dave."
The weekend's other widely released new film was "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas." The stoner sequel, which cost roughly $19 million to make, debuted at #3, behind "Tower Heist," with $13 million, which was slightly less than the debut of the second entry in the series three years ago. The "Harold & Kumar" movies generally perform very well in the "aftermarket" (DVDs, etc.).
"Paranormal Activity 3" was #4 on the box-office chart with $8.5 million in its third weekend of release. The low-fi horror flick has earned $95.3 million domestically. Justin Timberlake's "In Time" was #5 with $7.4 million for a $24.2 million total.
Overall, the box office was down about 20 percent from the same time period last year, when DreamWorks Animation's 21st film, "Megamind" (featuring the voice of Will Ferrell), and the live-action R-rated comedy "Due Date" were new in theaters.
This week's new releases include Leonardo DiCaprio in the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic "J. Edgar" (which opens on Wednesday); sword-fighting flick "Immortals"; Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill"; and filmmaker Lars Van Trier's much lauded heart-wrencher "Melancholia."
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