September 21, 2008 / 4:52 PM / 9 years ago

Crime pays for Samuel L. Jackson at box office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Samuel L. Jackson ruled the North American box office for the second time this year, while moviegoers largely ignored three other new releases as overall weekend sales resumed their downward spiral.

<p>Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from "Lakeview Terrace" in an image courtesy of Sony Pictures. REUTERS/Handout</p>

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, Jackson’s cop thriller “Lakeview Terrace” sold a modest $15.6 million worth of tickets during its first three days of release. It barely surpassed the $14 million opening for Jackson’s 2006 bomb “Snakes on a Plane.”

But Screen Gems, the distributor of the $20 million film, said the three-day tally was at the upper end of its expectations. Screen Gems is a low-budget division of Sony Corp.

Jackson plays a vindictive cop who makes life hell for his new neighbors. Reviews were mixed, even though it was directed by Neil LaBute, the filmmaker behind such edgy dramas as “In the Company Of Men.”

The 59-year-old actor was last at No. 1 with the sci-fi action movie “Jumper,” which opened with $27 million in February and finished with $80 million.

As for the other three rookies, the Lionsgate romantic comedy “My Best Friend’s Girl,” starring Kate Hudson and Dane Cook, opened at No. 3 with $8.3 million; the MGM cartoon “Igor” was No. 4 with $8 million; and Paramount/DreamWorks’ Ricky Gervais comedy “Ghost Town” was No. 8 with $5.2 million.

Last weekend’s champ, the Coen brothers’ comedy “Burn After Reading” slipped to No. 2 with $11.3 million. The Focus Features release, which stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt, has earned $36.4 million after 10 days, and should end up in the $50 million range, the studio said.

SALES FALLING

Overall sales fell 4 percent from the year-ago period to $93 million, said tracking firm Media By Numbers, and have now dropped for eight of the last nine weekends. Year-to-date sales are flat, and the number of tickets sold is down by about five percent, the company said.

A week ago, Lionsgate had predicted that “My Best Friend’s Girl” would be No. 1, and the $8.3 million opening was at the lower end of expectations, the studio said. Observers speculated the film might have been too raunchy for Hudson’s core female fan base.

Hudson went to No. 1 in February with “Fool’s Gold,” which opened to $21.6 million. Cook was No. 2 last September with a $13.7 million opening for “Good Luck Chuck.”

“Igor” revolves around a hunchbacked servant who dreams of scientific stardom. John Cusack leads the voice cast. The $25 million film was produced by independent animator Exodus Film Group, which said it was pleased with the $8 million opening. In addition to the usual family audience, the film also drew teens and young adults, Exodus founder/CEO John Eraklis said.

“Ghost Town” marks the feature headlining debut of Gervais, the wry co-creator of the BBC comedy “The Office.” He plays a misanthropic dentist who sees dead people. The film played mostly to women and old people, not exactly Hollywood’s preferred audience. A DreamWorks spokesman predicted the $20 million film would do better internationally. It opens on October 24 in the United Kingdom.

Focus Features is a unit of General Electric Co’s NBC Universal. Lionsgate is a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is privately held. DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures are units of Viacom Inc.

Reuters/Nielsen

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