'Messengers' Scares Up A Box-Office Win Over Love-Struck Mandy Moore

'Because I Said So' finishes second; 'Epic Movie,' 'Smokin' Aces' take a week-two dip.

The Top Five

#1 "The Messengers" ($14.5 million)

#2 "Because I Said So" ($13 million)

#3 "Epic Movie" ($8.2 million)

#4 "Night at the Museum" ($6.7 million)

#5 "Smokin' Aces" ($6.3 million)

Who needs those stinking critics? "The Messengers" proved a horror flick with a creepy advertising campaign doesn't, at least not in the first week of February when the box-office pickings are slim. Despite not being screened for critics — usually the kiss of death for a movie — the horror flick from acclaimed Hong Kong twin directors Oxide and Danny Pang landed in the #1 slot with $14.5 million, an especially strong start given its reported $16 million budget. It was an impressive debut for a horror film with no big stars (apologies to Dylan McDermott) and an actual original story. No, it's not a remake or a sequel. Innovative, right?

Nipping at the new #1's heels was another non-sequel/non-remake — though you could be forgiven for thinking it looked awfully familiar — "Because I Said So." Starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore as a mother-daughter team, the romantic comedy performed decently for a flick that garnered awfully tepid reviews, earning $13 million in its first weekend. The opening mirrors that of the Diane Keaton comedy "The Family Stone," which debuted to $12.6 million in December 2005.

The totals of the two new films at the top of the box-office chart have to be considered a pleasant surprise given the usually disappointing grosses over Super Bowl weekend. Interestingly, with "The Messengers" leading the way, Sony scored the top film at the box office over every football fan's favorite weekend for the seventh consecutive year.

Last week's top new flicks, "Epic Movie" and "Smokin' Aces," took the typical hard tumbles in their second go-rounds, while Ben Stiller's kid-friendly comedy "Night at the Museum" continued to hold strong after an amazing seven weeks in the top five.

As the Oscars approach, a few films are riding their nominations to extra cash. "Dreamgirls" pulled in another $4 million as its inevitable $100 million run continues. Two smaller films, "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Pan's Labyrinth," expanded and therefore saw only modest losses in their seventh and sixth weeks, respectively. "Labyrinth" is clearly the stronger of the two films at the box office, grossing nearly $22 million so far, thanks to a strong fantasy element.

How'd We Do

The MTV writing crew was just getting complacent. After weeks of our rotating celebrity prognosticator falling far behind, "Stomp the Yard" star and Grammy nominee Chris Brown proved he's not just another pretty face. The singer/actor not only correctly predicted the #1 debut of "The Messengers" (see "Projection Booth: Chris Brown Thinks 'Messengers' Can Stop 'Epic' "), but he also hit the number closer to the mark than this editor, earning the coveted Projection Booth title — at least for a week.

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor (8)

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer (5)

Celebrity guests (2)

In Perspective

We've barely turned the page on 2006 but the new year has already brought a slew of terrifying debuts at the box office — none more chilling than the lackluster openings of Hollywood's horror offerings. Are we reaching the over-saturation point for horror? Perhaps not when one looks at the #1 opening of this week's "The Messengers." But consider these five recent wannabe thrill rides, dating back only five weeks, all of which bombed on arrival in theaters. You can find their lackluster opening grosses in parentheses.

· "Blood and Chocolate" ($2 million)

· "The Hitcher" ($7.8 million)

· "Primeval" ($6 million)

· "Thr3e" ($700,000)

· "Black Christmas" ($3.7 million)

Next week

Two major players seek the box-office crown on this post-Super-Bowl weekend. Anthony Hopkins is nowhere in sight — unless you count the shamelessly misleading ads — but "Hannibal Rising" does bring back one of the silver screen's most cherished villains. Unknown Frenchman Gaspar Ulliel picks up the man-and-fava-bean-eating mantle in this Lecter prequel.

And while Eddie Murphy is a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor at the upcoming Oscars, don't be fooled. He's still a funnyman at heart and "Norbit" finds him hiding under the latex for laughs.

Check out everything we've got on "The Messengers" and "Because I Said So".

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