Movie-goers welcomed Samuel L. Jackson to the neighborhood, lifting his thriller "Lakeview Terrace" to the top spot at the weekend box office with $15.6 million in sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Jackson's tale about a cop terrorizing his new neighbors, released by Sony's Screen Gems banner, led a rush of new wide releases that generally did only so-so business.
"Obviously, as compared to like the summer season, the bar has definitely been lowered in terms of what movies are making," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "This definitely is a slowdown period, as is typical for this post-summer malaise we always seem to run up against."
Debuting at No. 3 with $8.3 million was Lionsgate's romantic comedy "My Best Friend's Girl," starring Kate Hudson as a woman who comes between best buddies played by Dane Cook and Jason Biggs.
Opening in fourth place with $8 million was MGM's animated comedy "Igor," featuring the voices of John Cusack and Molly Shannon in a story of a hunchbacked lab gofer trying his hand at being a mad scientist.
The DreamWorks-Paramount supernatural romance "Ghost Town" premiered at No. 8 with $5.2 million. The film stars Ricky Gervais as an anti-social dentist besieged by ghosts, including a philanderer (Greg Kinnear) scheming to prevent his widow (Tea Leoni) from remarrying.
After doing strong business last weekend, Hollywood slipped back into the slowdown that has persisted the last two months. Overall revenues came in at $93 million, down 4 percent from the same weekend last year, according to Media By Numbers.
A handful of films got off to good starts in limited release, among them Keira Knightley's historical pageant "The Duchess," which pulled in $202,527 in seven theaters, averaging a strong $28,932 a cinema. By comparison, "Lakeview Terrace" averaged $6,331 in 2,464 theaters.
"The Duchess," released by Paramount Vantage, stars Knightley as an 18th century ancestor of Princess Diana who finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage to an cold-hearted duke played by Ralph Fiennes.
The Warner Bros. Western "Appaloosa" took in $258,000 in 14 theaters, averaging $18,429. It stars Ed Harris, who also directed, and Viggo Mortensen as lawmen trying to clean up a corrupt Wild West town.
"Lakeview Terrace" overcame indifferent reviews to pack in solid crowds, with Jackson in full maniacal mode as a man riled by the interracial marriage of his new neighbors, played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington.
"He's just so cool to watch, isn't he?" said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "He always makes things interesting."
"Lakeview Terrace" bumped off the previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Focus Features' "Burn After Reading," which slipped to second place with $11.3 million. The Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading," a spy comedy featuring Brad Pitt and George Clooney, raised its 10-day total to $36.4 million.
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. "Lakeview Terrace," $15.6 million.
2. "Burn After Reading," $11.3 million.
3. "My Best Friend's Girl," $8.3 million.
4. "Igor," $8 million.
5. "Righteous Kill," $7.7 million.
6. "Tyler Perry's the Family That Preys," $7.5 million.
7. "The Women," $5.3 million.
8. "Ghost Town," $5.2 million.
9. "The Dark Knight," $3 million.
10. "The House Bunny," $2.8 million.
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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 Corp.