According to studio weekend estimates, Warner's The Town exceeded pre-release expectations in a big way this weekend with a first place debut of $23.8 million. The R-rated crime film directed by and starring Ben Affleck was widely expected to open in the mid-teens (which would have already represented a nice start for the film), but instead the film broke out and opened more along the lines of the $26.89 million start of 2006's The Departed.
The Town was helped in a big way by strong reviews and an effective marketing campaign and marks a big step up for Affleck as a director at the box office. Affleck's previous directorial effort, 2007's Gone Baby Gone, opened with $5.50 million and went on to finish its domestic run with $20.30 million. Based on the estimate, The Town generated the ninth largest September debut ever (without taking into account ticket price inflation).
Though it had to settle for second place, Sony's Easy A (which carried a production cost of just $8 million) also had a very nice start with an estimated opening weekend of $18.2 million. The PG-13 comedy starring Emma Stone opened towards the higher end of its quickly rising expectations. Not surprisingly, 67 percent of the film's audience was female. Easy A also appealed strongly to teens, with 49 percent of its audience being under the age of 18. Much like The Town, Easy A was helped by good reviews and a strong marketing effort. Easy A continues Sony's winning streak at the box office, which started back in June with The Karate Kid and has now been extended by three consecutive Screen Gems releases (the previous two being Takers and Resident Evil: Afterlife).
Universal's Devil opened slightly below expectations with an estimated $12.6 million. The PG-13 thriller had generated a strong level of online chatter in the weeks leading up to its release, but ultimately had to settle for third place this weekend. While The Town and Easy A were able to co-exist with one another, Devil clearly took a hit from both films (which both received far stronger reviews than Devil did). While M. Night Shyamalan didn't direct Devil, the film was marketed around his involvement with the project. At the end of the day that route appears to have failed in drawing in some of Shyamalan's fans, while also still keeping away his detractors.
After a very solid start last weekend Sony's Resident Evil: Afterlife took a sharp, but expected tumble in its second weekend of release. The 3D sequel starring Milla Jovovich grossed an estimated $10.1 million to finish in fourth. The film was down three spots and 62 percent from last weekend. In comparison, 2004's Resident Evil: Apocalypse fell 62 percent in its second weekend of release, while 2007's Resident Evil: Extinction slid 66 percent. Resident Evil: Afterlife has grossed $43.99 million through ten days of release, placing it 19 percent ahead of the ten-day starts of both Apocalypse and Extinction.
Fellow 3D film Alpha and Omega rounded out the weekend's top five with an estimated $9.2 million. The computer animated family film from Lionsgate debuted towards the higher end of its modest pre-release expectations. Alpha and Omega opened 39 percent stronger than Lionsgate's Happily N'Ever After, which launched with $6.61 million in January of 2007. With Warner's Legend of the Guardians opening next weekend, Alpha and Omega could very well experience a sizable second weekend decline.
Further down on this weekend's chart, two films achieved domestic box office milestones. Summit's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse topped the $300 million mark, while Lionsgate's The Expendables surpassed $100 million. Eclipse marks the fourth film of the year to gross at least $300 million domestically. The Expendables is the eighteenth release of 2010 to reach $100 million thus far.
Combined domestic grosses totaled an estimated $101 million this weekend. That was just a tad below the $101.8 million total gross for the same weekend last year. 2010's total domestic haul is currently running 3.3% ahead of 2009's at the exact same point in the year.
Check back tomorrow for weekend actuals.