"Argo" rises above "Cloud Atlas" as Sandy spooks

Sun Oct 28, 2012 4:46pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Acclaimed Iran hostage thriller "Argo" brought home its first box-office win over a quiet weekend, leading movie charts with $12.4 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales as would-be moviegoers hunkered down for Hurricane Sandy.

The tally for "Argo," directed by and starring Ben Affleck, topped the $9.4 million for new sci-fi drama "Cloud Atlas". Halloween-themed animated film "Hotel Transylvania" scared up $9.5 million from Friday through Sunday, narrowly edging "Cloud Atlas", studio estimates showed.

After two weeks in the No. 2 spot, "Argo" moved into the lead and lifted its domestic sales to $60.8 million through three weekends.

The movie, produced by Warner Bros. and GK Films for $44 million, tells the story of a mission to rescue U.S. government employees from Iran in 1979. The film has earned Oscar buzz after stellar reviews from critics and an "A+" grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, attributed the film's jump to "great word-of-mouth", which he called "the best form of advertising".

"Cloud Atlas", also from Warner Bros., fell short of industry forecasts for a $13 million debut at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters. Fellman said the film did better in larger cities, but struggled in the South and Midwest.

The film, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, cost $100 million to make. Many in Hollywood thought the story, based on a philosophical novel by David Mitchell, was too complex to bring to the big screen.

The nearly three-hour film with six interweaving stories divided critics, with the harshest reviewers saying it would try audiences' patience with multiple storylines and century-hopping plots. The film's stars also shift characters. Hanks, for example, is a shady doctor in the 1840s, a nuclear scientist in the 1970s and a simple valley-dweller in the distant future.

But "Cloud Atlas" also drew praise as an ambitious and well-acted epic. Sixty-one percent of reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website recommended the film.   Continued...

Director of the movie and cast member Ben Affleck poses at the premiere of "Argo" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California October 4, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni