LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “The Last Exorcism” beat fellow newcomer “Takers” by just $300,000 to end the two-week reign of Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables” at the weekend box office in North America on Sunday.
With the lucrative summer moviegoing season ending next weekend, the A-list blockbusters have ceded the spotlight to a late influx of low-budget genre pictures vying for a last-minute piece of the action.
The psychological thriller “The Last Exorcism,” shot in a faux-documentary style with a group of no-name actors, earned an estimated $21.3 million during its first three days of release, distributor Lionsgate said.
It edged the Sony Pictures heist thriller “Takers,” which made off with $21 million. Figures and rankings could change on Monday when final data are released.
The movies came in at the upper end of expectations and should quickly become profitable. Women accounted for 52 percent of the audience for both of them. “Last Exorcism” skewed younger, with two-thirds of its audience under age 25, while the figure was 51 percent for “Takers.”
“Last Exorcism” was independently made for about $2 million and acquired for U.S. distribution by Lionsgate for a similar amount. But the film earned a poor “D” rating in exit surveys conducted by tracking firm Cinemascore, according to Lionsgate.
“We were shocked,” said David Spitz, the company’s president of domestic theatrical distribution, noting that it earned strong reviews from critics and plenty of attention through online marketing efforts.
A little more than half the audience was Latino, reflecting the film’s religious underpinnings.
“Takers,” with a cast including Matt Dillon, Paul Walker and Idris Elba, cost about $32 million to make. It was handled by Sony’s low-budget Screen Gems arm.
Also new was a re-release of “Avatar,” the biggest movie in box office history, which came in at No. 12 with $4 million from a limited run in 862 3D theaters. The 20th Century Fox sci-fi extravaganza, boasting an additional eight minutes of footage, was “strictly for the fans,” a studio official said. Its total stands at $753.8 million.
The film also earned $4.3 million in 14 markets, led by Russia with $1.2 million, driving the foreign haul to $2.002 billion.
Lionsgate’s “The Expendables,” meanwhile, slipped to No. 3 in North America with $9.5 million, taking the total for the all-star mercenary action saga to $82 million after three weeks. It ranks as star/director/co-writer Stallone’s biggest adult thriller since 1993’s “Cliffhangers” ($84 million). Data are not adjusted for inflation.
Sony claimed the remaining two movies in the top five. Julia Roberts’ romantic travelogue “Eat Pray Love” slipped one to No. 4 with $7 million in its third weekend, while the Will Ferrell cop comedy “The Other Guys” was steady at No. 5 with $6.6 million in its fourth. Their respective totals stand at $60.7 million and $99.3 million.
Lionsgate is a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Sony Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp. Fox is a unit of News Corp.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Bill Trott