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'Battle: Los Angeles' conquers weekend on Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:05 pm

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Aaron Eckhart (centre) in a scene from 'Battle: Los Angeles'. - AP

NEW YORK:

Hollywood would like to skip spring and head straight to summer.

The summer-style blockbuster Battle: Los Angles performed like one at the box office, opening to a strong debut of US$36 million, according to studio estimates yesterday. The film stars Aaron Eckhart as a veteran soldier leading a platoon of Marines in combat against invading aliens.

For Columbia Pictures and Sony, the sci-fi action film recalls its 2009 Oscar-nominated hit, District 9. Battle: Los Angeles hasn't received nearly as good reviews, but it benefited from a 68 per cent male audience and a very successful marketing campaign.

"It's kind of like having a summer film in the spring," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony. "From the beginning, this was a film we were excited about."

Definite connection

Bruer added that there's "definitely a connection" between Battle: Los Angeles and District 9, which opened to US$37.4 million and was also helmed by a South African film-maker. Neill Blomkamp directed District 9, while Jonathan Liebesman directed the similarly handheld-heavy Battle: Los Angeles.

In its second week of release, the animated Western spoof Rango came in second, adding US$23.1 million for a cumulative total of US$68.7 million. The critically acclaimed Paramount Pictures film appeared on its way to surpassing US$100 million.

The weekend's other new releases didn't fare as well.

Red Riding Hood, the updated fairy tale starring Amanda Seyfried and headed by Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, debuted to US$14.1 million for Warner Bros.

Worse was Disney's animated 3-D family film Mars Needs Moms! It opened to a disappointing US$6.8 million, well below expectations. With a voice cast including Seth Green and Joan Cusack, it also opened on more than 200 IMAX screens.

Based on the book of the same title by Berkeley Breathed, Mars Needs Moms! had an estimated production budget of $150 million. Such a poor start means it's likely to be a significant loss for Disney, though that pain is somewhat alleviated by its surprise hit, Gnomeo & Juliet. It has taken in US$89 million in five weeks.

Overall, movie-going business was still down from the corresponding weekend last year. Since November 2010, such down weekends have been the norm except for one up weekend. The box office for 2011 was 21.5 per cent off last year's pace.

Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian said the weekend business was "good news for aliens, bad news for the overall box office".

"It's a cyclical business, but this is a long downturn," said Dergarabedian. "The industry is holding its collective breath for summer to start."

With myriad blockbusters planned for both the summer and holiday seasons, Hollywood has reason to expect better business as the year continues.



Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at United States and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released later today:


1. Battle: Los Angeles, US$36m.

2. Rango, US$23.1m.

3. Red Riding Hood, US$14.1m.

4. The Adjustment Bureau, US$11.5m.

5. Mars Needs Moms! US$6.8m.

6. Hall Pass, US$5.1m.

7. Beastly, US$5.1m.

8. Just Go With It, US$4m.

9. The King's Speech, US$3.6m.

10. Gnomeo & Juliet, US$3.5m.




[Art is science made clear.]

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