Weekend Report: 'End of Watch' Narrowly Beats 'House,' 'Curve'
It was one of the tightest races in years for first place at the box office this weekend, though all three movies in contention had fairly mediocre debuts. With actuals reporting, End of Watch wound up less than $1 million ahead of House at the End of The Street and Trouble with the Curve. Without any break-out hit, the Top 12 earned $75 million this weekend, which is off a whopping 29 percent from the same frame last year.

End of Watch's $13.15 million start is par-for-the-course for cop movies, as it fits right in between writer-director David Ayer's Street Kings ($12.5 million) and 2010's Brooklyn's Finest ($13.4 million). Unfortunately, both of those titles wound up with less than $28 million, which would be a disappointing final total for End of Watch (it's "A-" CinemaScore suggests it could push past this level). Exit polling indicated that the audience was 54 percent male and 63 percent over the age of 25, and the ethnic breakdown was 39 percent Caucasian and 32 percent Latino.

With $12.3 million, House at the End of the Street topped recent "House" horror movies Dream House ($8.1 million) and Silent House ($6.7 million), but was a bit behind Last House on the Left ($14.1 million). The audience skewed young (70 percent under 25) and female (61 percent), and it was also predominantly Latino (52 percent). They gave the movie a "B" CinemaScore.

End of Watch and House at the End of the Street are both inexpensive, lightly-marketed movies that wound up at about average levels for their respective genres. They should ultimately be solid singles for mid-range distributors Open Road Films and Relativity Media, and they could each turn a very modest profit.

Trouble with the Curve debuted to $12.2 million from 3,212 locations, which was good for third place. That's way behind Moneyball's $19.5 million opening last September, though it does at least rank seventh all-time for baseball movies. Compared to recent Clint Eastwood movies, Trouble's debut was less than half of Gran Torino's nationwide expansion ($29.5 million), but up slightly on recent directorial efforts J. Edgar ($11.2 million) and Hereafter ($12 million). The movie received a "B+" CinemaScore, which suggests neutral word-of-mouth that won't help or hurt in the long run.

One could view Trouble with the Curve's middling performance as an indictment of Clint Eastwood's brand following his bizarre chair-talking performance at the Republican National Convention last month. Instead, it's best to view this as a failure of the baseball movie genre, which has an incredibly low ceiling (the top debut ever belongs to The Benchwarmers with $19.7 million). Baseball fans spend 162 days a year (or more) following their favorite team, and so there needs to be something special for them to devote that extra time and money to a baseball movie. Also, thanks to the addition of an extra Wild Card spot in each league, late September is more competitive than ever in Major League Baseball this year, which may have kept more fans at home.

Finding Nemo 3D fell 42 percent to $9.6 million. Through 10 days, the movie has made $30.2 million, which is lower than any recent 3D re-release and less than half of The Lion King 3D's $61.5 million 10-day total.

After taking first place at the box office last weekend, Resident Evil: Retribution dropped to fifth place with $6.7 million. That's a steep 68 percent decline from last weekend, which is the worst drop so far for a Resident Evil movie. It's now earned $33.5 million, which lags behind its predecessor by more than $10 million.

In sixth place, comic book adaptation/remake Dredd bombed with just $6.3 million from 2,506 locations. That's less than one-third of Kick-Ass's $19.8 million, and only a little over half of the original Judge Dredd's $12.3 million (and that movie was considered a flop 17 years ago!). It's at least up on Shoot 'Em Up ($5.7 million) and about on par with April's Lockout ($6.2 million), though those comparisons suggest Dredd is on track for less than $20 million through its entire run. The audience was predominantly male (75 percent) and older (69 percent were 25 years of age or older) and they gave the movie a "B" CinemaScore. A 3D share is not currently available.

Dredd's awful performance is the latest example of how the Comic-Con/online fanboy crowd just doesn't make up a large portion of the moviegoers in this country. The movie came out of its Comic-Con screening in July with tons of online buzz and very strong reviews, and it maintained a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes through at least its first 25 reviews (though it ultimately wound up at a more-reasonable 77 percent). As a result, the fanboy audience was very aware of this movie ahead of release, and anticipation seemed to be pretty high among this group as well. Ultimately, though, it's just not a big-enough group to drive strong business. For a good dissection of the hazards of targeting fanboys, check out this piece from earlier this year in The Hollywood Reporter.

After one of the best limited openings ever, The Master expanded to 788 locations and earned $4.4 million. That's lower than There Will Be Blood's nationwide expansion ($4.9 million), and Blood took a bit longer to get nationwide. Considering the mixed buzz coming from the movie right now, there's virtually no way The Master winds up matching Blood's $40.2 million total.

At four locations, The Perks of Being a Wallflower grossed $228,359. That translate to a per-theater average of $57,090, which is the fifth-highest so far in 2012. It's also the highest average ever for a movie from Summit Entertainment, which plans to expand the movie in to more markets this coming weekend. The audience was 70 percent female and 60 percent under the age of 25.

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This Weekend in Past Years:

• 2011 - 'Lion' Remains 'King,' 'Moneyball,' 'Dolphin Tale' Go Extra Innings

• 2010 - 'Wall Street' Sequel Yields Solid Returns

• 2009 - Blue Skies for 'Cloudy,' Hazy Starts for 'Surrogates,' 'Fame'

• 2007 - 'Resident Evil' Infects Top Spot

• 2006 - 'Jackass' Slams Into Top Spot

• 2005 - 'Flightplan,' 'Corpse Bride' Give Rise to Lively Weekend

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