It wasn't magic at the box office reminiscent of last weekend, but it wasn't a total disaster either. With a first place finish from the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle "Lakeview Terrace," theaters took in just under $90 million total; not bad for the midst of one of the worst financial crises the economy has ever faced. $15 million for the top film of the weekend isn't mindblowing, but on a budget of $20 million, what you have is a very nice little film that is about to become very profitable.
"Burn After Reading" had enough juice to hang on to the number two spot, which was good for another $11 million. Like "Lakeview," "Burn" will earn back the rest of its production budget this week, marking a second strong financial success for The Coens. At three and four were "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Igor," both hovering around the $8 million mark. And rounding out the top five is "Righteous Flop" which failed to meet half its production budget after two weekends. That's not good.
Aside from the above films, which all have succeeded to varying degrees when considered in context with their budgets, two other films produced some gaudy box office statistics, albeit on much smaller scales. "Appaloosa" and "The Duchess" (64% and 63% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes) opened on 14 and seven screens respectively, and both performed extremely well. At more than $27,000 per screen, "The Duchess" actually led that category for the entire weekend. "Appaloosa," at $17,775, came in second. While early limited release success is no guarantee of wider success, it does usually mean that a film will get a shot in more theaters. In the cases of these films, I'd look for "Appaloosa" to go wider first. With recognizable stars and an easily conveyed genre, it won't be hard to at the very least plant the seeds of interest. "The Duchess," a costumed period piece starring Kiera Knightley, may not have as large a potential pool of viewers, but still could do well with the right kind of roll-out and marketing campaign.
Next week will see a Hollywood Indian Summer of sorts, with the release of what looks to be a big budget, high-concept, action-thriller in "Eagle Eye." We'll also get a look at the newest Spike Lee film, "Miracle at St. Anna" and the Chuck Palahniuk adaptation "Choke." And for love-smitten nitwits, there's also "Nights at Rodanthe," which I just caught a trailer for earlier today and nearly went into a diabetic shock from saccharine overload. It's not a bad slate of offerings, but I still might take a pass and curl up with a nice pumpkin brew.