Clooney outdraws "Machete" at holiday box office

Mon Sep 6, 2010 12:45pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In the battle of the box office assassins, A-lister George Clooney barely mustered more firepower with his new chart-topper "The American" than the relatively unknown star of "Machete," as the summer moviegoing season wrapped feebly during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

"The American," in which Clooney plays a laconic gunslinger holed up in a picturesque Italian village, earned $16.4 million across the United States and Canada during the four days beginning September 3, distributor Focus Features said on Monday.

"Machete," a violent fantasy starring character actor Danny Trejo as a Mexican hitman with a penchant for sharp objects, came in at No. 2 with $14.0 million, said 20th Century Fox.

Both studios said they were happy with the openings, which exceeded modest expectations, even if the movies are not destined for box office greatness. Clooney's movies, for example, usually end up in the $30 million to $40 million range, and Focus doubted the new one would buck that trend.

The top 10 boasted one other newcomer, the optimistically titled Drew Barrymore romantic comedy "Going the Distance," which stalled at the outset. It came in at No. 5 with a disappointing $8.6 million, said Warner Bros. Pictures.

Both "Machete" and "Going the Distance" opened on Friday, while "The American" got a two-day head start and has earned $19.5 million to date.

Last weekend's champion, the Sony Pictures heist thriller "Takers," slipped to No. 3 with $13.5 million; its 11-day haul rose to $40 million.

Sales for the top-12 films fell to their lowest level in almost a year, a fitting coda to a summer lineup whose weak performance was obscured by the 3D boom.

While sales from the first weekend in May through Monday are projected to break last year's record, the increase comes solely from higher ticket prices. The number of tickets sold -- a better gauge of Hollywood's health -- hit its lowest level since 1997.   Continued...

<p>Actor George Clooney poses backstage after receiving the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 62nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California, August 29, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>