WINNERS OF THE WEEK: Grown-up movies. Specifically, Prisoners, which debuted atop the chart and netted an estimated $21.4 million, at the upper end of expectations – which were modest for the kidnapped-kids drama, given its grim subject matter and challenging food-for-thought tone. Give credit, then, to the film's impressive star power (led by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal), its strong advance buzz from the fall film festivals, and the lack of much else in the marketplace with appeal to adults. Like Lee Daniels' The Butler (still going strong at Number Seven in its sixth week of release), Prisoners seems poised to capitalize early on an Oscar-season audience hungry for substance after a summer of superhero fluff.
Another movie with adult appeal, Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer's The Family, held up reasonably well in its second week. It won't win any Oscars, but the mob comedy did take in an estimated $7.0 million, down 50 percent from last weekend and good for a third-place finish.
Finally, bilingual custody-battle dramedy Instructions Not Included actually increased business in its fourth weekend, taking in an estimated $5.7 million, up 17 percent from a week ago. The fourth-place finisher has earned $34.3 million to date.
LOSERS OF THE WEEK: Movies for teens. Battle of the Year, the latest in a subgenre of generic dance movies, opened with just an estimated $5.0 million, way down in fifth place. With the film's weak word-of-mouth, not even the presence of R&B star/controversy magnet Chris Brown could draw enough kids or young women to make this film look like a smart counterprogramming move.
Also quickly losing its appeal to teens was Insidious: Chapter 2. In its second week, the horror sequel lost 64 percent of the business drummed up by last weekend's record-breaking debut, for an estimated take this weekend of $14.5 million and a second-place finish. Then again, such steep second-week drops are typical for horror movies.
'RUSH' HOUR TRAFFIC: Ron Howard's Formula One racing epic Rush doesn't open wide until next week, but it took an early lap in five theaters and racked up big numbers with impressive speed. Already, it's taken in $200,000, for an outstanding average of $40,000 per screen. (Prisoners' average was $6,574.) The numbers bode well for its nationwide debut, its long-term box office prospects, and even for the movie's Oscar prospects.
Doing even better, however, was new romantic comedy Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. It opened with $240,000 on just four screens, for a per-venue average of $60,000, the highest of any movie this weekend.
One youth-appeal movie that did do well was the limited re-release of The Wizard of Oz, now in retrofitted 3D. On 318 screens, the 74-year-old fantasy classic pulled in an estimated $3.0 million, for a per-screen average of $9,503, even cracking the Top 10 at Number Nine. Imagine how well it could have done if it had race cars or Tony Soprano in it.