LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" wasn't ready to turn over
his box-office badge this weekend as the film about a bumbling shopping center
security guard earned $21.5 million to nab No. 1 for a second week in a row.
The comedy, starring Kevin James as the guard who tries to protect the mall where
he works from criminals, has now grossed $64.8 million in its two weeks of
release and appears on its way to surpass $100 million.
"It's just a very funny film," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide
distribution for Sony. "It's not only a great family film, it really is a film
that everyone loves."
The third installment of the "Underworld" series fared well in its opening weekend.
"Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," a prequel that looks at the roots of a feud
between vampires and werewolves, made $20.7 million. Its two predecessors
"Underworld" and "Underworld: Evolution" earned $21.7 million and $26.8
million, respectively, in their opening weekends.
The fantasy adventure "Inkheart" was unable to cast a spell over
movie-goers, earning only $7.7 million in its debut. The movie, taken from the
best-selling novel by Cornelia Funke, features Brendan Fraser playing a bookbinder with the ability to read
characters right out of books and into real life.
"Unfortunately, families didn't come out in larger numbers," said Jeff
Goldstein, Warner Bros.' executive vice president of distribution.
Films that received Academy Award nominations this past week had a strong
showing at the box office as studios expanded their release.
"Slumdog Millionaire," the drama about a game-show contestant
from the slums of Mumbai, earned $10.6 million this weekend as the movie
appeared in more than 1,400 theaters. Studio executives said the film, which has
now made nearly $56 million, has been boosted by its recent haul of awards,
including top honors from the Producers Guild of America on Saturday.
"I think the word of mouth has been very strong since we opened in November,
but with the Golden Globes and the Academy Award nominations as well as
the PGA, it's the must-see movie before the Academy Awards in February," said
Sheila DeLoach, senior vice president of distribution at Fox Searchlight.
Get all your Oscar coverage on MSN.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" re-entered
the Top 10, earning $6 million to boost its total to $111 million. The film,
starring Brad Pitt as a man aging backward toward infancy, landed 13
Oscar nominations, including best actor for Pitt. "The Wrestler" and "Frost/Nixon" also drew big crowds this weekend.
"This group has gotten the biggest (Oscar) bump collectively that I've ever
seen," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracker Media by
Numbers. "This lays to rest the argument that Oscar nominations can't help out
your box-office numbers."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian
theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released
1. "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," $21.5 million.
2. "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," $20.7 million.
3. "Gran Torino," $16 million.
4. "Hotel for Dogs," $12.4 million.
5. "Slumdog Millionaire," $10.6 million.
6. "My Bloody Valentine 3-D," $10.1 million.
7. "Inkheart," $7.7 million.
8. "Bride Wars," $7 million.
9. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," $6 million.
10. "Notorious," $5.7 million.
Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Rogue Pictures are owned by NBC
Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and
Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; DreamWorks, Paramount and
Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt
Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox
Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros., New
Line, Warner Independent and Picturehouse are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is
owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony
Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group;
Lionsgate is owned by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by
Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems