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'Ender's Game' Leads Film Newcomers

Plus: 'Dallas Buyers Club' opens strong in limited release

Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford star in 'Ender's Game.'
Richard Foreman
November 3, 2013 3:15 PM ET

WINNER OF THE WEEK: Old men. That includes Thor – who, being a Norse god and all, is a lot older than Chris Hemsworth looks. This weekend, Thor: The Dark World opened in most major box office markets around the globe and earned an estimated $109.4 million, upstaging whatever little ticket raffles were going on here in the States. That's the fourth-biggest box office weekend worldwide this year; three of those top four now belong to Disney/Marvel (two others belong to Iron Man 3 and the third to Universal's Fast and Furious 6.) Most of all, the hammer-wielder's success is yet another sign that, for these giant franchise movies, U.S. box office is almost an afterthought.

Since The Dark World doesn't open here for another week, it gave some elbow room to another old man, Harrison Ford, whose Ender's Game topped the North American box office chart with an estimated $28 million. That's a tad higher than the $27 million many had predicted for the launch of Orson Scott Card's galactic war saga. It helped that Ford was so ubiquitous promoting it this week that you might have thought the 71-year-old Star Wars veteran was the star of the movie and not 16-year-old Asa Butterfield.

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Another old men who did surprisingly well: Irving Zisman, the slapstick senior played by Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa. After topping the chart when it premiered last week, it was expected to plummet and lose more than half its business in Week 2, but it lost just a third, coming in at No. Two with an estimated $20.5 million. As a result, the film has banked $62.1 million in 10 days.

Finally, there was the hard-partying codger quartet of Last Vegas. They opened in third place with an estimated $16.5 million, also outperforming expectations (in the $11 million to $15 million range). The comedy enjoyed very good word-of-mouth (measured by an A- at CinemaScore), which was apparently strong enough to overcome middling reviews.

LOSERS OF THE WEEK: Turkeys. The time-traveling fowl of Free Birds may have bigger neck wattles than the geezers from Last Vegas, but so far, they're having to settle for fourth place, debuting with an estimated $16.2 million. (Then again, that's only $320,000 shy of Last Vegas' winnings, so by the time final numbers are released on Monday, the Birds could have gobbled up enough to pull ahead.) Expectations for this one were higher, at about $18 to $22 million, since it's the first new cartoon since Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 over a month ago. Also, like Last Vegas, it earned an A- at CinemaScore. Still, even with good word-of-mouth, it's hard to sell kids on a new, unfamiliar story, and word is that the 3D didn't really add enough to the visuals to justify the surcharge. (Rounding out the top five was Gravity, still holding up well in its fifth week. It earned an estimated $13.1 million, for a total so far of $219.2 million.)

MATTHEW DOES 'DALLAS': Matthew McConaughey is getting a lot of Oscar talk this year, not just for this summer's Mud but also for Dallas Buyers Club, a drama about the early days of the AIDS epidemic, for which McConaughey lost an alarming amount of weght and spent the last year or so frightening fans with his emaciated appearance. This weekend, some of those fans got to see what all the fuss was about, as Dallas opened on nine screens and earned an estimated $264,000. That's a strong $29,333-per-screen average, the best of any film this week. Fellow Oscar hopeful 12 Years a Slave earned a solid $11,220 this week after expanding from 123 screens onto 410, earning another estimated $4.6 million in the process, good for eighth place on the chart. (By comparison, Ender's Game opened on 3,407 screens and averaged $8,218 per screen.)

Seven other movies opened in limited release this weekend, most notably the dud Diana. This was supposed to be one of the season's big Oscar contenders, thanks to an uncanny performance by Naomi Watts as the late princess. Unfortunately, the movie earned bad buzz and dismal reviews. It opened this weekend on 38 screens but pulled in just an estimated $64,900, averaging a meager $1,708 per screen.

About Time, the latest from romantic comedy king Richard Curtis, isn't an independent movie, but Universal treated it like one. The time-traveling romance starring Rachel McAdams opened on just 175 screens, enough to generate some positive buzz and to earn an estimated $1.1 million (averaging a decent $6,286 per screen). Watch for both About Time and Dallas Buyers Club to do good business when they expand nationwide next week.

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