"New Year's Eve" leads as movie box office fizzles

Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:55pm EST
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Romantic comedy "New Year's Eve" topped the domestic movie box office during the weekend but Hollywood had little to celebrate as North American ticket sales slumped to their lowest level in three years.

"New Year's Eve" led the charts with a disappointing $13.7 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday. The movie added $12.9 million from international markets, for a combined global debut of $26.6 million, distributor Warner Bros. said.

New adult comedy "The Sitter," starring Jonah Hill as a reluctant babysitter, finished second with an estimated $10 million domestically from Friday through Sunday. The newest "Twilight" vampire romance movie, winner of the past three weekends, slipped to third place with $7.9 million.

Overall ticket sales in the United States and Canada came in weak, down nearly 16 percent from the same weekend a year ago at $77.4 million, according to Hollywood.com Box Office. That ranked as the lowest weekend total since September 2008 and followed a sluggish performance a week ago.

"This has been a very tough two weeks at the box office," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com Box Office, who blamed the decline on a lack of male-oriented films.

Studios are hoping to turn that around in the coming weeks by cramming several big-budget action movies into theaters around Christmas. They include "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

For this weekend, "New Year's Eve" failed to reach studio projections of at least $17 million domestically.

Even so, "we did well in a very miserable weekend," said Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. The studio hopes the holiday theme will appeal in the coming weeks, he said.   Continued...