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‘The Expendables 2’ holds on to top spot at box office

By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — At the box office this past weekend, studios took “what’s been hanging around in their closet out and tried to make it as profitable as they possibly could.”

That’s from Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., just one of the studios that saw a new film tank on one of the slowest moviegoing weekends of the year.

The four debuts hitting theaters struggled to make a serious impact at the multiplex, because the top six-grossing movies were holdovers. The No. 1 film was “The Expendables 2,” which claimed the top spot for the second consecutive weekend. The movie starring aging action heroes saw its ticket sales fall 53 percent to $13.5 million, raising its overall total to $52.3 million, according to an estimate from distributor Lionsgate. The original “Expendables” had collected $65.4 million during the same period in 2010.

The new film to collect the most money was “Premium Rush,” a bike-riding action flick that took in a lackluster $6.3 million. That was just slightly more than the $6.2 million the documentary “2016: Obama’s America” grossed playing in roughly 1,100 fewer theaters. “Hit & Run,” Dax Shepard’s road trip comedy, collected a weak $4.7 million during its first weekend in theaters, while the horror film “The Apparition” could scare up only a dismal $3 million.

“Premium Rush,” which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bicycle messenger, received largely favorable critical reviews, and those who saw it this past weekend assigned it an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore. However, word of mouth will need to be strong in the coming weeks to make the film a hit, especially considering Sony Pictures spent $35 million to produce it.

“Hit & Run” opened Wednesday to try to spread positive buzz about the film, but those who saw the movie during its first days in theaters gave it only a C-plus CinemaScore. In its first five days of release, the picture sold $5.9 million worth of tickets — a disappointing sum even though the production cost only $1.3 million.

“The Apparition,” which stars “Twilight” supporting player Ashley Greene, was financed by producer Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment for $17 million. But Warner Bros. released the film only in roughly 800 theaters and may have been reluctant to promote the movie heavily because Silver’s 25-year-long deal with the studio is coming to a close in late 2012.

In limited release, “Sleepwalk With Me” from comedian Mike Birbiglia and “This American Life” host Ira Glass did impressively well. Playing only in New York City’s IFC Center, the comedy collected $65,000 — an opening-weekend house record for the theater. The movie, written and directed by its star Birbiglia and produced by Glass, is loosely based on Birbiglia’s struggles with sleepwalking as he traveled on the road trying to make it as a stand-up comedian.

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