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Resident Evil Scares Up Box Office with $24 Million

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MIlla Jovovich (AP)

The undead of "Resident Evil" still have plenty of life in them.

Sony Screen Gems' "Resident Evil: Extinction," with Milla Jovovich again fighting flesh-hungry zombies in the third installment based on the video game, opened as the No. 1 weekend flick with $24 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It was the best debut for the franchise, topping the $23 million debut of part two, 2004's "Resident Evil: Apocalypse."

The studio hinted there could be more "Resident Evil" movies, though the latest had been billed as the final one.

"Until the next," joked Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution. "It absolutely would not surprise me considering the success of the franchise that they find a way to come up with another. It's a real possibility."

Lionsgate's "Good Luck Chuck," with Jessica Alba and Dane Cook in a romantic comedy about a man jinxed at finding true love, debuted in second place with $14 million despite an almost universal thrashing from critics.

Universal's "Sydney White," starring Amanda Bynes as a college freshman who teams with frathouse dorks in a fight against campus snobs, premiered at No. 6 with $5.3 million.

The previous weekend's top movie, the Warner Bros. drama "The Brave One," fell to No. 3 with $7.4 million, raising its total to $25.1 million.

Brad Pitt's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" each opened strongly in limited release.

Penn went behind the camera for his fourth directing effort on "Into the Wild," which took in $206,596 at four theaters for a whopping average of $51,649 a cinema, compared with $8,487 in 2,828 theaters for "Resident Evil: Extinction."

Released by Paramount Vantage, "Into the Wild" stars Emile Hirsch in the real-life story of Christopher McCandless, a college graduate whose two-year odyssey of self-exploration across North America ended tragically in Alaska.

Pitt stars as the legendary outlaw in the Warner Bros. saga "Assassination of Jesse James," which took in $144,000 in five theaters, averaging $28,800. The film chronicles the last year of James' life as he lapses into paranoia over betrayal by cohorts, among them young admirer Ford (Casey Affleck.)

"Into the Wild" begins expanding to more theaters Friday, while "Assassination of Jesse James" starts going into wider release Oct. 5.

Focus Features' "Eastern Promises," with Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts in a drama set among Russian mobsters in London, expanded from a handful of theaters into nationwide release, coming in at No. 5 with $5.7 million.

Sony's "Across the Universe," with Evan Rachel Wood in a musical romance using Beatles songs, expanded from narrow release and pulled in $2.05 million.

Warner Independent's "In the Valley of Elah," starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron in a murder mystery set among U.S. troops newly returned from Iraq, also expanded from limited release and grossed $1.3 million.

The top-five movies all had R ratings, an unusual occurrence for a movie market generally dominated by PG-13 flicks.

"The Rs have it this weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "That makes sense in this fall season, when grittier, more intense films are released."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Resident Evil: Extinction," $24 million.

2. "Good Luck Chuck," $14 million.

3. "The Brave One," $7.4 million.

4. "3:10 to Yuma," $6.35 million.

5. "Eastern Promises," $5.7 million.

6. "Sydney White," $5.3 million.

7. "Mr. Woodcock," $5 million.

8. "Superbad," $3.1 million.

9. "The Bourne Ultimatum," $2.8 million.

10. "Dragon Wars," $2.5 million.