Is Milla Jovovich hotter than Jessica Alba? Opinions may vary, but one thing's for sure: She certainly was a bigger draw at the box office this weekend. Resident Evil: Extinction, Jovovich's third installment in the popular videogame-based franchise, was on fire in its debut, earning $24 million, according to Sunday's estimates. Drawing a crowd that was 65 percent male and 55 percent under the age of 25, it scored the action series' best opening yet (RE1 bowed to $17.7 mil in 2002 and RE2 debuted with $23 mil in 2004), and in doing so it easily trumped Alba's romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck (No. 2), which earned $14 mil. All impressive. All expected.
So let's take a moment to talk about the lovely Ms. Alba. I adore a sexy woman as much as the next guy, but her box office track record has yet to prove that she is, in fact, more than just a pretty face. Certainly, that face has been at the front of the marketing campaigns for the mind-bogglingly popular Fantastic Four franchise, so Alba deserves some credit for the $356 mil combined domestic gross of the two FF movies. Then again, I'd argue that those films had a built-in audience that was going to see them no matter what, and when you subtract her work as Sue Storm from her résumé, her track record gets iffy. While the ensemble film Sin City (another existing story that attracted already dedicated viewers) was a decent hit, Alba's lead-starring efforts Honey (which opened with $12.9 mil) and Into the Blue ($7.1 mil premiere) have stumbled. To be sure, it's not a good thing when Good Luck Chuck's mediocre $14 mil debut is your best yet. Anyway, that's it. She hasn't taken a big role in any other movies; otherwise, it's all magazine covers. I write all this not to gang up on the actress, but merely to point out, once again, that the stars whom we tend to think shine brightest in Hollywood often, by box office standards at least, don't. Then again, at least Alba has good company on this financially overrated list, including, oh, Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman, to name two.
Moving on, the box office's streak of remarkably unremarkable weekends continued. Jodie Foster's The Brave One (No. 3) dropped a decent 45 percent to come in with $7.4 mil. The Western remake 3:10 to Yuma held strong at No. 4 with $6.4 mil; its three-week gross is now $37.9 mil, 12th best ever for an ''oater'' (thanks, Variety!) David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen's Eastern Promises (No. 5) expanded semi-wide and earned a semi-good $5.7 mil (well below the $8.1 mil that A History of Violence scored when it went wide in 2005). And the only other major release, Sydney White, finished in sixth place with $5.3 mil, despite having the weekend's best CinemaScore, A- (thanks, audience that was 75 percent female and two-thirds under age 25!)
Outside of the multiplexes, Sean Penn's adaptation of Jon Krakauer's nonfiction adventure story Into the Wild fared best, banking a huge $206,596 in four locations (that's an ultra-terrific $51,659 average.) Brad Pitt's dreamy, meandering Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford also did well, averaging $28,800 in five theaters. While The Jane Austen Book Club struggled, bringing in just $160,520 in 25 venues.
Overall, the total box office take from Friday to Sunday was the teensyest bit down from the same frame a year ago, which means, if Monday's final numbers hold, that Hollywood was denied an 11th consecutive ''up'' weekend. But, hey, as Milla might say to Jessica, you can't win 'em all.