WINNER OF THE WEEK: End of Watch. At this writing, End of Watch is actually tied with House at the End of the Street, with both movies claiming $13 million debuts in early Sunday estimates, while Trouble With the Curve is just a nose behind with an estimated $12.7 million opening. By the time final numbers are in on Monday, any one of these three could be the box office champ. Still, just for finishing in such rarefied company, End of Watch deserves the most credit. The found-footage cop drama has a restrictive R rating, limited star power (sorry, Jake Gyllenhaal, but you're no Clint Eastwood or even Jennifer Lawrence) and a distributor (Open Road Films) that's only put out one previous $10-million-plus opener (January's The Grey). As a result, Watch was expected to open only at around $9 to $11 million. So it's this week's winner just for outperforming its modest expectations.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Cinema bookers. Pity the poor booker at your local multiplex, who had to cope this weekend with an overcrowded slate of four wide-release movies, all of them with a strike or two against them, and most competing for the same audience. Besides Watch, there was horror flick House, which distributor Relativity declined to screen for critics (not a good sign) and which marked the first test of whether Jennifer Lawrence can draw viewers to a non-Hunger Games movie. (Verdict: Jury's still out.) At least it was aiming for a young female demographic, unlike the rest of this weekend's new movies, which sought adults and young men. The trouble with Trouble was that Clint Eastwood's baseball drama, marking the first time in 19 years that he's acted for a director other than himself, earned mixed reviews, something grownup moviegoers actually pay attention to.
And then there was comic book/sci-fi epic Dredd, which actually earned decent reviews, thanks largely to a script by Alex Garland (28 Days Later). Unfortunately, its drawbacks were a lack of star power, an R rating, competition for its target audience (not just against Watch and Trouble, but also last week's winner, Resident Evil: Retribution), and the fact that it was a reboot of Sylvester Stallone's still-acrid 1995 stinkbomb Judge Dredd. It had to settle for a sixth-place opening, with an estimated $6.3 million, which suggests that the movie won't recoup its reported $50 million budget. Retribution fell a steep 68 percent from last week's victory, for an estimated $6.7 million and fifth place, and still outearned Dredd. (Rounding out the top five was the 3D re-release of Finding Nemo, at Number Four with an estimated $9.4 million.)
THE PERKS OF BEING EMMA WATSON: Not long ago, Emma Watson was, believe it or not, the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. At age 20, she was earning $30 million a year from the Harry Potter movies and endorsement contracts. Now 22, she's acting for a sliver of her old salary in indie movies like the new The Perks of Being a Wallflower in order to prove that she's not just Hermione Granger. Well, so far, so good. In Perks, the British actress plays a confident, attractive Pittsburgh high school senior. The film has earned generally good reviews, and though Watson isn't the protagonist, it's being sold largely on her name. And she's proving herself a box office draw; though the movie opened this weekend on just four screens, it earned a smashing $61,000 on each of them, for a total of $244,000. Watch for Watson to continue to prove herself as the movie opens wide and as more non-Hogwarts opportunities come her way.