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Box office report: 'Unknown' tops holiday weekend with $25.6 mil

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unknown-1Although some garden gnomes were nipping at its heels, the Liam Neeson thriller Unknown managed to maintain its lead and win the four-day holiday weekend with $25.6 million, according to studio estimates. The PG-13 movie, which was based on the 2003 French novel Out of My Head, confirmed Neeson’s newfound status as a 58-year-old action star. The film’s Friday-to-Sunday tally of $21.8 million fell a bit short of Neeson’s 2009 hit, Taken, which debuted to $24.7 million. But Unknown was produced for a very reasonable $31 million and should hold up well the next few weeks. The Warner Bros. release drew a particularly older crowd, with 89 percent of the audience at least 25 years old, and 54 percent over the age of 50.

Threatening to snatch away Unknown’s surprise victory was Disney’s Gnomeo & Juliet, which posted an opulent four-day result of $24.8 million. The animated musical’s Friday-to-Sunday total of $19.2 million represented a mere 24-percent drop from last weekend, and the film has already accumulated $55.8 million in just 11 days. The G-rated movie is projected to lead today’s box office with $5.6 million, and should it perform much better than that (or if Unknown severely misses its Monday target of $3.9 million), Gnomeo could still wind up winning the holiday weekend.

The film that was supposed to win this weekend, I Am Number Four, limped into third place with a four-day gross of $22.6 million. The $50 million DreamWorks production, which was released by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, fell far short of matching the Presidents’ Day weekend openings of such fantasy/sci-fi films as Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief ($38.7 million) and Jumper ($32.1 million). On the bright side, the PG-13 movie drew a decidedly young crowd (68 percent of the audience was between the ages of 12 and 34), and CinemaScore moviegoers under the age of 25 rated the film an “A-.” But Number Four, which many saw as an attempt to launch another Twilight-esque franchise, didn’t generate the same level of interest from women – only 43 percent of the audience was female.

In fourth was the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy Just Go With It, which earned $21.7 million over the extended weekend. Its three-day total of $18.5 million marked a modest 39-percent drop from the prior weekend. That decline is particularly encouraging for Sandler, who usually sees his films plummet around 50 percent on their second weekends. And debuting in fifth place was Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, which collected $19 million in four days. The Martin Lawrence comedy’s three-day total of $16.3 million was easily the series’ worst opening; by comparison, Big Momma’s House started with $25.7 million, and Big Momma’s House 2 brought in $27.7 million. Farewell, Big Grandmomma’s House.

In Oscar news, the front-runner The King’s Speech crossed $100 million on Saturday, joining Toy Story 3, Inception, True Grit, and Black Swan to become the fifth Best Picture nominee to reach that milestone. The British historical drama, which finished in seventh place with $7.9 million, has remained in the top 10 for the past eight weeks. Check back next weekend as Nicolas Cage promises to Drive Angry (in 3-D!), and Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis star in the Farrelly brothers’ 10th comedy, Hall Pass.

The following are four-day studio estimates:

1. Unknown – $25.6 mil
2. Gnomeo & Juliet – $24.8 mil
3. I Am Number Four – $22.6 mil
4. Just Go With It – $21.7 mil
5. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son – $19.0 mil

Originally posted February 21 2011 — 4:41 PM EST

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