LOS ANGELES – Movie audiences were more interested in light comedy over Easter weekend than in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's "Grindhouse," a double-feature ode to bloody exploitation flicks.
Paramount and DreamWorks' figure-skating romp "Blades of Glory" remained the No. 1 movie with $23 million, followed for the second weekend by Disney's animated comedy "Meet the Robinsons" with $17 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
"Grindhouse," a three-hour reinvention of the down-and-dirty B-movie double features Tarantino and Rodriguez grew up watching, debuted at No. 4 with $11.6 million.
It finished behind Sony's family comedy "Are We Done Yet?", starring Ice Cube in a sequel to "Are We There Yet?", which opened at No. 3 with $15 million.
Released by the Weinstein Co., "Grindhouse" fell well short of expectations. Box-office forecasters had figured the movie would premiere in the ballpark of Tarantino's two "Kill Bill" movies and Rodriguez's "Sin City," whose opening weekends ranged from $22 million to $29 million.
The weak debut for "Grindhouse" was a blow to the Weinstein Co., formed two years ago by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein after they departed their old outfit, Disney-owned Miramax. The "Grindhouse" directors were steady providers for the Weinsteins at Miramax, which released Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill" films and Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" movies.
"Grindhouse" presents two full films. Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" features Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer who becomes a zombie fighter with a machine gun for a leg. Tarantino's "Death Proof" stars Kurt Russell as a serial killer who stalks women with his beefed-up car.
"With these two filmmakers' pedigree and the overall cool factor that this film had going for it, you would have figured it would have done a lot more business," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
The movie's running time was an impediment, limiting the number of screenings theaters could fit in.
Harvey Weinstein said disappointing returns for "Grindhouse" resulted from the "novelty in America of releasing a double bill and asking an audience to make a three-hour commitment."
"Grindhouse" played to big crowds on the East and West coasts but failed to click with audiences in the Midwest and South, Weinstein said.
With theatrical receipts, overseas sales, television and home-video revenues, "Grindhouse" will turn a profit on its $53 million budget, Weinstein said. The company hoped that word of mouth from those who did see it would sustain it at theaters in coming weeks, he said.
"If you go see it with any audience, walk into any theater, you'll see people screaming and applauding like a rock concert," Weinstein said. "Maybe we didn't educate the audience that it's such an experience."
Movie-goers clearly were in the mood for something lighter. "Blades of Glory," starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as skating rivals who team up as the sport's first men's pair, raised its 10-day total to $68.4 million, its receipts dropping a slim 30 percent from opening weekend.
"Meet the Robinsons," the animated adventure of a time-traveling orphan boy, also held strongly in its second weekend, raising its 10-day total to $52.2 million.
"There's a real hunger out there for something that you can go to and say, 'Hey, let me get away from the terrible things we have to watch and read every day,"' said Marvin Levy, spokesman for DreamWorks, one of the studios behind "Blades of Glory."
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. "Blades of Glory," $23 million.
2. "Meet the Robinsons," $17 million.
3. "Are We Done Yet?", $15 million.
4. "Grindhouse," $11.6 million.
5. "The Reaping," $10.1 million.
6. "300," $8.8 million.
7. "Wild Hogs," $6.8 million.
8. "Shooter," $5.8 million.
9. "TMNT," $4.9 million.
10. "Firehouse Dog," $4 million.
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