Fox Searchlight's Civil Rights era drama The Secret Life Of Bees parlayed its recent Toronto world premiere and a number of decent reviews into a third place launch on $11.1m, just ahead of Oliver Stone's George Bush biopic W from Lionsgate/QED International on $10.6m.
The Secret Life Of Bees boasts a redoubtable female ensemble of Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo and Jennifer Hudson and finished a whisker behind Buena Vista's erstwhile champion Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which ranked second on $11.2m for $69.1m in its third weekend. Final tallies will be announced on Monday [October 20].
W persuaded sufficient numbers of North American political junkies to pull themselves away from round-the-clock TV election coverage and YouTube highlights to score a solid debut.
The drama earned mixed reviews and stars Josh Brolin as the beleaguered US President alongside a venerable ensemble that includes Richard Dreyfuss, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn.
Paramount-DreamWorks' thriller Eagle Eye fell one place to fifth in its fourth weekend on a $7.3m haul that raised the running total to $81.3m. Summit's teen comedy Sex Drive launched in ninth place on $3.6m. Universal's sports drama The Express crashed out of the top 10 in its second weekend to rank 12th on $8.3m.
Overall the top 12 films combined for $86.4m, roughly 10% higher than the same weekend last year.
Magnolia Pictures' What Just Happened' starring Robert De Niro as a frazzled film producer - which parent company 2929 decided to release through its wholly-owned Magnolia Pictures label after the Hollywood caper failed to entice buyers at Sundance - opened in 25th place on $216,000 from 36 theatres.
Elsewhere in the limited arena, Samuel Goldwyn Film's Christian tale Fireproof fell one place to 11th in its fourth weekend on $2.7m from 905 theatres for a commendable $20.7m. Paramount Vantage reported that DreamWorks' period drama The Duchess starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes added $2.2m from 1,207 theatres for $9.2m and ranks 13th after five weekends.
SPC's Rachel Getting Married climbed six places to 19th in its third weekend on approximately $722,000 from 69 theatres for a solid $1.8m. Lionsgate's documentary Religulous is doing well in 540 theatres and ranks 16th on $9.1m after three weekends.
Next weekend's wide releases are: Buena Vista's High School Musical 3:Senior Year starring Zac Efron; Buena Vista's annual re-release of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas 3D in time for the Halloween crowd; Lionsgate's horror sequel Saw V with Tobin Bell and Scott Patterson; and Warner Bros' police drama Pride And Glory starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell.
Estimated Top 10 North America Oct 17-19, 2008
Film (Dist)/Int'l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date
1 (-) Max Payne (Fox) Fox Int'l $18m -
2 (1) Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $11.2m $69.1m
3 (-) The Secret Life Of Bees (Fox Searchlight) Fox Int'l $11.1m -
4 (-) W (Lionsgate) QED Int'l $10.6m -
5 (4) Eagle Eye (DreamWorks-Paramount) PPI $7.3m $81.3m
6 (3) Body Of Lies (Warner Bros) WBPI $6.9m $24.5m
7 (2) Quarantine (Screen Gems) SPRI/various $6.3m $24.7m
8 (5) Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist (Sony) SPRI $3.9m $26.7m
9 (-) Sex Drive (Summit) Summit Int'l $3.6m -
10 (7) Nights In Rodanthe (Warner Bros) WBPI/Village Roadshow $2.7m $36.9m