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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The new assassination thriller "Vantage Point" shot to the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office in North America while Oscar nominees "Juno" and "There Will Be Blood" enjoyed solid sales ahead of Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony.
Three other films hit theaters but were largely ignored by moviegoers: the comedies "Be Kind Rewind" at No. 7, "Witless Protection" at No. 13 and "Charlie Bartlett" at No. 14.
The heavily promoted "Vantage Point," which replays the shooting of the U.S. president from multiple points of view, earned an estimated $24 million in the three days since opening Friday, said distributor Columbia Pictures. (The data consist of actual figures for Friday and Saturday, and a Sunday estimate.)
As they did with the last two box office champs, "Jumper" and "Fool's Gold," critics heaped scorn on "Vantage Point." The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern said "an unsuspecting public is the target of yet another massive marketing campaign on behalf of damned near nothing."
William Hurt plays the president while Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox play Secret Service agents in the feature directing debut of TV veteran Pete Travis.
Columbia, a unit of Sony Corp, said it was pleased with the opening. It noted that the audience was divided fairly evenly by gender and viewers either side of 30 years old. The film was budgeted in the high $30 million range, the studio said.
"Jumper," a sci-fi fantasy starring Hayden Christensen as a man who can instantly leap around the globe, fell to No. 2 with $12.7 million. The 11-day total for the $85 million Fox release stands at $56.2 million. Fox is a unit of News Corp.
The children's adaptation "The Spiderwick Chronicles" followed at No. 3 with $12.6 million, which gives it $43.6 million after 11 days. Paramount is a unit of Viacom Inc.
"Juno," meanwhile, tied at No. 7 with "Be Kind Rewind," both reporting $4.1 million. After 12 weeks, Fox Searchlight's teen comedy has earned $130.4 million, easily the most popular release among the arthouse-oriented films vying for best picture. It will also compete for director (Jason Reitman), actress (Ellen Page), and original screenplay (Diablo Cody).
The drama "There Will Be Blood" jumped two places to No. 10 with $2.6 million and has a total of $35 million after nine weeks. The oil saga received eight nominations, sharing the lead with "No Country For Old Men," which earned $2.3 million in its 16th week, rising two to No. 12. The haul for the gritty western rose to $64.2 million. Both were produced by Viacom's Paramount Vantage and Walt Disney Co's Miramax Films.
The other best picture nominees are "Michael Clayton," which is now out on DVD after a disappointing $48 million theatrical run, and the wartime drama "Atonement," whose total rose to $49.4 million after a $1.2 million weekend.
The $4.1 million bow for "Be Kind Rewind," starring Jack Black, was within the expectations of its distributor, New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner Inc.
"Witless Protection," starring Larry the Cable Guy, earned $2.2 million. It was released by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. "Charlie Bartlett," a high school comedy from closely held Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc, flunked with $1.8 million.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Bill Trott