Clooney football comedy drops ball at box office

Sun Apr 6, 2008 3:17pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - George Clooney suffered a bruising tackle at the North American box office on Sunday as his new football comedy "Leatherheads" failed to kick the gambling drama "21" from the top spot.

"Leatherheads" took to the field in second place with estimated ticket sales of $13.5 million for the three days beginning Friday, said its distributor, Universal Pictures.

"21" logged a second weekend at No. 1 with three-day sales of $15.1 million, enjoying a stronger-than-expected hold, said Columbia Pictures.

Some rival studios thought Universal's estimate was too generous, by upward of $1 million, placing "Leatherheads" at No. 3 below the new Jodie Foster family adventure "Nim's Island," which reported $13.3 million. Final data will be issued on Monday.

Universal had hoped "Leatherheads" would open in the mid-teen millions range, said Nikki Rocco, president of distribution at the General Electric Co-owned studio.

"We're all disappointed," she said, dismissing rivals' claims that the studio's estimate was overly optimistic.

She said the pre-release tracking looked strong in the film's target demographic of older movie-goers, a group that does not rush out to theaters on opening weekend. More than half of the audience was aged 40 and older, the studio said.

RISKY BET   Continued...

<p>George Clooney (R) is interviewed by his father Nick Clooney on the red carpet during the premiere of Leatherheads in his home town of Maysville, Kentucky March 24, 2008. REUTER/John Sommers II</p>