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Weekend Box Office: Winners don't have to finish first

Though neither one could touch the undisputable cinematic masterpiece that is Taken 2: Tooken, it was good news overall for both Ben Affleck’s stranger-than-fiction Iranian hostage thriller Argo and the Ethan Hawke-led occult horror film Sinister, which each took a healthy share of the pie. The two newcomers will be headed in opposite directions: With widespread acclaim, certain awards consideration, and an “A+” CinemaScore—the dumbest of all dumb polling metrics, second only to 7-11 cups and possibly Rasmussen, but still—Argo should settle into a stable month or two in the Top 10 and $20.1 million on its opening weekend is a good start. Sinister, on the other hand, will take the money and run: $18.25 million already blows away its $3 million production budget, and it’ll likely drop by 60% or more next weekend, when the Paranormal Activity saga continues. Mother Box Office was less nurturing to Kevin James, who pandered as hard as he could with the teacher-does-MMA dramedy Here Comes The Boom, but came away with a paltry $12 million. And Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh’s enormously entertaining follow-up to In Bruges, was undone by the lamest marketing campaign in recent memory, collecting a mere $4.25 million.

But let’s talk about Atlas Shrugged, Part II — The Strike. Despite the wholesale rejection of the first Atlas Shrugged by both critics (who are socialist leeches) and the Tea Party revolutionaries who supposed to carry it to glory, the producers were not about to let the free market decide whether to go through on their epic three-part paean to capitalism. The good news for them: Part II made virtually the same amount of money, $1.7 million, as Part I. The bad: It opened in over three times as many theaters. But since dismal numbers didn’t keep the second part from being made—albeit with a new cast and a new director—it seems inertia alone, plus the largesse of creepy organizations like FreedomWorks, will finally bring this godforsaken project to a proper end. Here are a few helpful budget-conscious suggestions for Part III:

• Replace the cast with wingnut ex-Saturday Night Live players willing to work gratis: Victoria Jackson as Dagny Taggart and Dennis Miller as Henry Reardon should add the scorching sexual chemistry this series has been missing.


• Shoot it as the found-footage horror film Ayn Rand intended, with the world’s geniuses and visionaries being pursued by zombie hordes of 99-percenters demanding a slight increase in the top marginal tax rate.

• Harness the intellectual energy of Galt-going big brains to invent a special miracle camera that allows $60 million movies to be produced for $6,000. Then blow it up before the government can get it.

In limited release, the quiet Sundance favorite Middle Of Nowhere proved a heartening success story, riding good reviews to a $13,000 per screen average on six screens—this without the aid of an established indie distributor. Little else performed as well, however, with Smashed, the well-reviewed drama about alcoholism, winning $7,500 per screen on four screens, and the Weinsteins-distributed War Of The Buttons earning a pitiful $920 per screen.

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.


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