'Game Plan' Sacks 'Kingdom'
It wasn't quite the next Pacifier, but The Game Plan posted a solid opening, hitting the weekend top spot and packing more juice than fellow starter The Kingdom. Walt Disney Pictures' family comedy raised $23 million on approximately 3,700 screens at 3,103 theaters, exceeding industry expectations that pegged it for second place with less than $18 million, according to the studio.

The Game Plan demonstrated the consistent popularity of fish-out-of-water father comedies, several of which have been surprisingly successful in recent years, including Cheaper by the Dozen and Are We There Yet?. Disney last scored in the sub-genre with The Pacifier, which opened to $30.6 million in 2005 on its way to $113.1 million. Like the Vin Diesel-fueled Pacifier, Game Plan was about a macho man (Dwayne "Dwayne Johnson" Johnson) who becomes an unlikely father figure. It was the second best start for a Rock vehicle after The Scorpion King and a step up for the actor above last September's Gridiron Gang.

To build awareness, Disney held 808 sneaks previews of The Game Plan last weekend and they played to 78 percent capacity. Additionally, the studio said Game Plan was only the sixth picture of the year to receive straight "A's" from moviegoer-opinion pollster CinemaScore, joining Freedom Writers, Ratatouille, Transformers, Hairspray and The Bourne Ultimatum.

The Kingdom came in at $17.1 million on around 3,600 screens at 2,793 theaters, filling fewer seats than past similar pictures like The Siege and Three Kings. Aside from its Saudi Arabia setting, The Kingdom was promoted as a routine action movie, in which an FBI team is simply out to "catch a killer," not an Islamic terrorist, and its television spots were nearly indistinguishable from the many criminal investigation programs on the air, hence the dull opening.

Also debuting nationwide, Feast of Love saw famine at 1,200 locations, making $1.7 million. Multi-storied ensemble pieces like this romantic comedy-drama rarely click theatrically as there's often no specific story for potential moviegoers to latch onto, just a theme. Making matters worse for Feast of Love was a noncommittal ad campaign that engendered indifference for passionate material.

Among holdovers, Resident Evil: Extinction was true to its title and its genre, diving 66 percent to $8 million and falling behind Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Good Luck Chuck and Eastern Promises also took sizable hits, while 3:10 to Yuma had the best hold among wide releases, down 32 percent.

In the Valley of Elah fizzled in its nationwide expansion, grossing $1.5 million at 762 sites. Performing better, Across the Universe remained limited, adding 63 theaters for a total of 339, and saw a three percent uptick to $2 million. Distributor Sony plans to take the musical wide on Oct. 12. Meanwhile, The Darjeeling Limited and Lust, Caution boasted high per theater averages of $67,469 and $63,918, respectively, by opening exclusively in New York City.

RELATED ARTICLES• Review: 'Feast of Love'

• Review: 'The Kingdom'

• 10/2/06 - 'Open Season,' 'Guardian' Lead Weekend (Same Weekend, 2006)

• 10/3/05 - 'Serenity' Moseys to Tame Start (Same Weekend, 2005)


Weekend Box Office Results

• All Time September Openings

• Daddy Comedies

• Terrorism Movies

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Sept. 30 and was revised on Monday, Oct. 1 with actual grosses.