Everybody wants to be George Clooney but maybe not today. While the actor/director's Leatherheads fumbled and Nim's Island failed to connect with a wide audience, it was holdover 21 that held strong enough to win the weekend in surprising, if less-than-impressive, fashion.
The new releases were so ineffective that a $15.1 million gross was all that Kate Bosworth and Jim Sturgess' blackjack drama needed to take top prize for the second straight week, according to Sunday's estimates. The year's second repeat champ (Horton Hears a Who! also reigned supreme for two consecutive weeks), 21 has banked a total of $46.5 mil so far domestically. And the fact that it declined a mere 37 percent this weekend shows that it stands a good chance of keeping its against-the-odds winning streak alive.
In second place, then, was Leatherheads, with a mere $13.5 mil. Though not too far off from most predictions (and almost exactly in line with mine), that sum is still a big disappointment, for it continues to leave Clooney with a gap on his résumé where a non-ensemble, non-tentpole hit movie should be. Saddled by mediocre reviews, the period football comedy also earned a bad C+ CinemaScore grade from an audience that was mostly female and a whopping 88 percent over the age of 25. None of which bodes well for the future, in which the film, reported to have cost in the neighborhood of $58 mil to produce, must score a lot of box office touchdowns to recoup its budget. Worse still is the realization that it can't look to overseas markets for financial salvation. Because remember: Everywhere else in the world ''football'' means soccer.
Nim's Island was next at No. 3 with $13.3 mil a total so close to that of Leatherheads that the two films may wind up switching positions when the final numbers are released on Monday. In the long run, in fact, the Jodie Foster-Abigail Breslin-Gerard Butler fantasy should wind up out-earning Leatherheads: It enjoyed a nice A- CinemaScore review from a crowd that skewed younger and more female than the audience for Clooney's movie. So while its opening weekend may not have been so wonderful, there is hope for the family film.
Falling to fourth place in its fourth weekend was the aforementioned Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! The animated sensation added $9.1 mil to its domestic total, which now stands at $131.1 mil. And the new R-rated horror flick The Ruins rounded out the top five with a frighteningly disappointing $7.8 mil gross and a truly bone-chilling D+ CinemaScore.
In limited release, Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film, Shine a Light, grossed a decent $1.5 mil in 276 venues (including several IMAX locations). Wong Kar-Wai's English-language romance, My Blueberry Nights, costarring Norah Jones, averaged a sweet $12,290 in six places. And French import Flight of the Red Balloon, with Juliette Binoche, earned a lofty $18,000 average in two theaters.
Overall, the slew of sluggish openers severely hobbled the weekend's cumulative take, which was down more than 23 percent from the same frame a year ago the seventh ''down'' weekend out of the last eight. Worse still, after a solid start, 2008 is now officially struggling: Revenue is off 1.75 percent from the first 14 weeks of 2007 and attendance has declined nearly 5 percent. Needless to say, all eyes will be on the Prom Night remake next weekend to see if it can help turn this collective box office frown upside down.