Nicholas Cage and Summit Entertainment wound up on top of a very competitive box-office this weekend. The star's $58 million sci-fi action pic "Knowing" raked in an estimated $24.8 million on 3,332 screens, beating out two other strong debut movies, comedy bro-mance "I Love You, Man" and Julia Roberts' big-budget return to the big screen "Duplicity." Meanwhile, Overture Film's "Sunshine Cleaning" continued to impress outside the Top 10 by increasing its box-office take by 222%
Summit president of domestic distribution Richie Fay told TheWrap that "Knowing" performed better than expected. "We were looking at about $20 million, so it came along very nicely. The campaign, Nicolas Cage and director Alex Proyas turned out to be a very good combination for us," Fay said.
"With his past roles in movies like 'National Treasure,' I think the audience comes to expect something from (Cage) now and he certainly delivered."
Fay noted that the audience was equally made up of men and women, and 63 percent of the "Knowing" viewers this weekend were 25 or older.
Paramount/DreamWorks' "Man," starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, came in at No. 2 with a respectable $18 million on 2,500 screens. The other two films featuring Rudd and Segel, 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and 2007's "Knocked Up" opened at No. 2 with $17.7 million and $30 million, respectively.
Unfortunately, moviegoers weren't so eager to see Julia Roberts in her first staring role in several years. Universal's "Duplicity," a $60 million spy-romance co-staring Clive Owen, pulled into the No. 3 spot with $14.4 million, a bit south of what industry experts had predicted. Roberts' trademark romantic comedies such as 2001's "America's Sweethearts" and 1999's "Runaway Bride" opened strong with $30 million and $35 million, respectively.
Nikki Rocco, Universal Pictures' distribution president, said Roberts has been off audiences' radar for a long time and her fans are mostly females over the age of 25 -- a demographic that does not tend to rush out to see new films as 17-to-25 year-olds do.
"I think it's a pretty fine opening. I harken this back to 'Michael Clayton' or 'Syriana,' which opened wide to a lot less and had a really solid outcome. My expectations weren't much more than this," Rocco said.
"Sunshine Cleaning," starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, expanded onto 60 new screens this weekend. The film, budgeted just below $10 million, made $705,161 on 64 screens. "Sunshine"'s debut take last weekend on only four screens was $214,000 or $53,500 per theater -- the highest opening weekend theater average of all films released in 2009 so far.
Kyle Davies, Overture executive vp theatrical distribution, said "Sunshine's" growth is similar to how "Juno," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Visitor" and "The Wrestler" attracted bigger audiences through positive reviews and word of mouth.
"It really looks like it's finding it footing and we're hoping that we connect with audiences," Davies told TheWrap. "We're taking a slow approach. We'll add another 100 theaters in another 20 markets this week and then we'll push into wider release on April 3. We're getting really good reviews and -- most importantly -- we're getting great word of mouth. It's the kind of movie where you plant a seed and let it get out there."
Last weekend's surprise winner "Race to Witch Mountain" held steady, dropping 47 percent in ticket sales to land in No. 4 with $13 million. "Watchmen" continued its descent, landing at No. 5 with $6.7 million. E! Online notes that last year's not-so-incredible "The Incredible Hulk" had grossed about $116 million in its third week, while "Watchmen" has totaled $98 million at the close of its third week.
"Taken," starring Liam Neeson, didn't receive the boost some box-office experts predicted. The runaway hit made 4.1 million in its eight week in release, landing at No. 7 behind "Last House on the Left."