WINNER OF THE WEEK: John C. Reilly. The veteran character actor and Will Ferrell sidekick (Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) has never enjoyed an opening as big as the enormous $49.1 million estimated haul of Wreck-It Ralph. The cartoon's debut not only topped the weekend chart but also smashed the opening-weekend record for a non-Pixar, in-house-made Disney cartoon. It helped that the movie had a solid script with appeal beyond the family audience (surely a lot of Gen-Xers went to see it just for its evocation of 1980s videogames), and it also helped that Sandy-strewn audiences were ready for some gentle escapism. Still, Reilly deserves some credit, too, and let's hope he gets it, even though no one can see his face.
Also excelling, as usual, was Denzel Washington, whose Flight debuted in second place with a strong $25.0 million, according to studio estimates. That's very good for a movie that opened on fewer than 2,000 screens. Indeed, its hefty per-screen average of $13,275 was slightly higher than that of Wreck-It Ralph ($13,086), which was playing in more than twice as many venues.
Rounding out the top five: Last week's champ, Argo, fell to third place with an estimated $10.2 million, down just 15 percent from a week ago. Ben Affleck's movie has held up very well, with a four-weekend total of $75.9 million. Opening in fourth place was RZA's kung-fu movie The Man With the Iron Fists, which did about as well as expected (debuting with an estimated $8.2 million), followed by Taken 2, with an estimated $6.0 million and a five-week total of $125.7 million.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Alicia Silverstone. Vamps had been gathering buzz for a year as a possible comeback for both the Clueless star and her director, Amy Heckerling. The idea was promising: a vampire-themed romantic comedy, with rising ABC sitcom siren Krysten Ritter (Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) as a co-star. But the film limped out, post-Halloween, on just one screen and grossed an estimated $500. Which means about four people per screening. Now, that's scary.
HAVE YOU SEEN ME? It's sad enough to see Silverstone and Heckerling fail even in the bargain bin. But what's former A-Lister Barry Levinson doing there? The Oscar-winning director of Rain Man showed up this week on just 23 screens with a found-footage horror tale called The Bay; is that really the best feature work he can find these days? And what of Sean Penn playing a retired goth rocker on a mission of vengeance in the barely released This Must Be The Place (two screens)? Sure, Penn's just slumming (he'll be back chewing more expensive Hollywood scenery in Gangster Squad in a couple months), but otherwise, the art-house is looking like the missing persons Twilight Zone of the multiplex.