Neeson's "Grey" wins box office weekend

Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:45pm EST
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Survival story "The Grey" starring Liam Neeson in a battle against weather and wolves led the box office pack with a better-than-expected $20 million in ticket sales over the weekend.

"The Grey" knocked last weekend's winner, "Underworld: Awakening," to second place. The vampire and werewolf sequel starring Kate Beckinsale brought in $12.5 million from Friday through Sunday at domestic theaters, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday.

In "The Grey," Neeson returns to an action role as a man who leads a team of plane crash survivors who must fight harsh weather and a fierce pack of wolves in the Alaskan wilderness.

The movie played at 3,185 North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters and earned a per-theater average of $6,279, according to the box office division of

Distributor Open Road Films acquired the film for about $5 million and had projected up to $12 million in debut weekend sales. The film beat that forecast because "it doesn't look like every other movie out there. In a crowded marketplace, I think it's important to be distinctive," said Open Road Films CEO Tom Ortenburg.

Katherine Heigl's new comedy, "One for the Money," finished in third place with $11.8 million, topping industry forecasts of less than $10 million for the film based on a best-selling book by Janet Evanovich. Distributor Lions Gate Entertainment said readers who loved the book helped the movie beat expectations.

"We think the audience that showed up are not frequent moviegoers. They're just huge fans of Janet Evanovich," said David Spitz, head of domestic distribution for Lions Gate.

In the film, Heigl plays a cash-strapped woman who joins a bail-bond business and must track down a wanted man who happens to be an ex-boyfriend. Audiences surveyed by exit polling firm CinemaScore game the movie a B-minus on average.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Liam Neeson arrives for the premiere of the film "The Next Three Days" in New York November 9, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>