Friday Report: 'Underworld' Shoots Down 'Red Tails'
The late week indications that Red Tails might pull off an upset this weekend proved to be unfounded, as Underworld Awakening easily took first place at the box office on Friday. Red Tails did have an above-average turnout, though, and it should wind up on the high end of most expectations. The same can't be said for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Haywire, neither of which attracted a ton of attention. Also disappointing was the nationwide expansion of The Artist, which can't seem to get enough awards attention to overcome its black-and-white-and-silent challenge.

Underworld Awakening grossed an estimated $9.4 million on Friday, which is the second-highest opening day for the series behind 2006's Underworld: Evolution ($10.25 million). With 3D premiums, though, attendance was probably at or near the series low. Still, it should easily claim first place for the three-day weekend with around $25 million, which is not bad at all for the fourth entry in a nine-year-old franchise. According to distributor Sony/Screen Gems, the movie received a strong "A-" CinemaScore.

Red Tails launched in to second place with just over $6 million on Friday. That's almost as much in one day as Miracle at St. Anna (another World War II movie with a predominantly African American cast) made in its entire run ($7.9 million). It's also the best opening day among recent fighter pilot movies like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow ($5.18 million) and Stealth ($4.77 million), and it earned more than Flyboys made in its entire opening weekend ($6.004 million). The George Lucas production should wind up with at least $15 million for the weekend.

After emerging on top last weekend, Contraband fell 57 percent to $3.7 million, which was good for third place. The movie has made $37.6 million through eight days in theaters.

Sept. 11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close earned a meager $3.17 million in its first day in nationwide release on Friday. It will likely finish the weekend with more than $10 million, which is okay given the tough subject matter but less impressive considering its A-list cast (Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock) and its massive marketing campaign.

Relativity Media's Haywire rounded out the Top Five with an estimated $2.9 million. Despite strong reviews, the Steven Soderbergh action movie was tagged with a terrible "D+" CinemaScore. This calls to mind what happened with Drive in September: it was also a well-reviewed arty action movie from a mid-major studio, and it also received a poor CinemaScore ("C-"). One has to wonder if this is because audiences really don't like these types of movies, or if there's something wacky about CinemaScore's formula in these situations. Regardless, Haywire will likely finish the weekend with around $8 million.

Beauty and the Beast 3D plummeted 62 percent to $2.12 million on Friday. That's significantly worse than The Lion King 3D's 32 percent decline at the same point, which suggests that Beauty and the Beast's success is going to be more fleeting. Through eight days, the re-release has earned $26.9 million.

Following its three Golden Globe wins last Sunday, The Artist expanded to 662 locations on Friday but only managed to bank a paltry $636,000. Considering how high awareness must be at this point, that's a disappointing number that suggests that there's a limited audience for a black-and-white silent movie regardless of how much acclaim it receives. It will be interesting to see if a barrage of Oscar nominations on Tuesday can do anything to turn things around for The Artist. Related Stories:

Weekend Forecast: Actions Heroines and Fighter Pilots Set to Wage War This Weekend

Related Chart:

• Grosses for Friday, January 20, 2012