In its third week of release, Ben Affleck's "Argo" topped a soft weekend box office with $12.3 million as Tom Hanks' sci-fi epic "Cloud Atlas" stayed earthbound in its debut.
"Cloud Atlas” is the first film from Andy and Lana Wachowski -- the team behind "The Matrix" -- in four years and is among the most expensive independent movies ever. It took in an estimated $9.5 million from 2,008 screens and is in a battle for No. 2, with Sony's "Hotel Transylvania."
It was another strong hold for the animated kids film, which in its fifth week dropped just 27 percent from last week and raised its overall domestic gross to $130 million, best ever for a Sony Pictures Animation film. Paramount’s found-footage horror thriller “Paranormal Activity 4,” which was No. 1 last week with a $32 million opening,took in $8.9 million from 3,412 locations and will finish fourth.
The overall box office was down about 10 percent from the comparable week last year, when "Puss In Boots" won the weekend with $34 million. The East Coast numbers were likely down as potential moviegoers braced for the onset of Hurricane Sandy and authorities were urging people to stay indoors on Sunday.
"Argo," the Iran hostage thriller which Affleck directed and stars in, is a hit for Warner Bros. With a production budget of $44 million, it's domestic total now stands at $60 million. That's just behind the three-week total of Affleck's 2010 film "The Town," but "Argo" is an awards contender and that attention should push it past the earlier film's $92 million domestic haul.
It is also benefiting from the rare "A+" CinemaScore audiences gave it.
"When word of mouth becomes the driving force in your campaign," Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution told TheWrap Sunday, "it's a rare occasion, and this film has taken on a life of its own."
Analysts had projected an opening of $13 million going into the weekend for "Cloud Atlas," but its $4.681 per-screen average was the best of any wide release and its Imax screen average was even more impressive at $10,714 from 105 locations -- about 19 percent of its take.
Warner Bros. put up $20 million of the estimated $100 million “Cloud Atlas” budget and is distributing the film in North America. The rest was covered by smaller investments, foreign rights sales and by the Wachowskis, who directed the film along with Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”). Hanks and Halle Berry top an ensemble cast that includes Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae and Susan Sarandon.
Its challenging material -- the adaptation of David Mitchell's sprawling sci-fi 2004 novel tells six interweaving stories -- and nearly three-hour run time may have proved daunting to some. It earned just a "C+" CinemaScore from audiences who were 77 percent over 25 years of age and 51 percent male.
"Clearly the upscale market is leading the charge," Fellman said, "and that's where we'll try to build it going forward." He noted strong numbers out of Canada, and said that he thought the film was likely to play more strongly overseas than in the U.S.
Open Road Entertainment’s R-rated horror film “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” debuted with $8 million from 2,931 locations. That's well below the $20 million bow of the original “Silent Hill,” which opened No. 1 in April 2006.
With a "B+," Fox’s PG-rated “Chasing Mavericks” had the best CinemaScore of any of the openers. But it took in just $2.2 million from 2,002 screens and the surf film starring Gerard Butler couldn't crack the top ten.
Paramount’s debuting teen comedy “Fun Size" took in $4 million from 3,014 screens in its debut. It’s the first PG-13 film developed by Nickelodeon Movies to be released in the U.S. Written by Max Werner, it marks the directing debut of Josh Schwartz. Audiences which were 67 percent female and 73 percent under 25, gave it a "B" CinemaScore.