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Box Office: 'Roommate,' 'Sanctum' Both Hit Soft Super Bowl Weekend Projections

With the market down 21%, Leighton Meester dorm-room thriller finishes No. 1 Friday with just $6.4M; James Cameron-produced 3D claustrophobia-fest is second with $3.6M

Saturday update:

You take the fact that 100 million-plus people will be watching the Super Bowl Sunday instead of going to the multiplex, and combine it with the fact that the middle part of the country is still digging its way out of a huge storm, and you've got yourself a downer box office.

And that's what it was Friday, when a low-budget genre film -- Sony/Screen Gems' "Single White Female" update "The Roommate" -- led the box office with a $6.4 million first-day gross, according to studio data.

Universal's James Cameron-produced 3D flick "Sanctum" was second, grossing an estimated $3.6 million.

Both films are pace to meet very conservative estimates, with the overall box office down around 21 percent from the same Super Bowl weekend last year, according to one studio's report.

Starring "Gossip Girl's" Leighton Meester as a hot prospective dorm-sharer with a serious loose screw, "The Roommate" was produced by Vertigo Entertainment for just $8 million and should gross a very handsome $15 million over the three-day weekend period.

It'll mark consecutive Super Bowl-weekend counter-programming victories for Sony, which last year released Amanda Seyfried chick flick "Dear John" to over $30 million.

Likewise, Universal and Relativity paid only around $12 million to acquire "Sanctum," a no-name-cast thriller themed around under-water cave diving that utilized the same production-technology infrastructure that was already built for "Avatar."

The film was projected to take in around $8 million to $10 million this weekend, and that's what it'll probably do.

Here's how the top 10 finished Friday:

"The Roommate" ($6.4m)
"Sanctum" ($3.6m)
"No Strings Attached" ($2.9m)
"The King's Speech" ($2.3m)
"The Rite" ($1.9m)
"The Green Hornet" ($1.8m)
"The Mechanic" ($1.8m)
"True Grit" ($1.4m)
"The Dilemma" ($1.1m)
"Black Swan" ($1.1m)

Thursday preview:

As moments on the release calendar go, launching a movie during Super Bowl weekend ain't the easiest of first downs to get at the box office.

And as if a U.S. television audience of more than 100 million won't be enough of a distraction at the multiplexes this weekend, throw in inclimate weather that was so bad earlier in the week, about 400 theaters turned off their projectors and closed their doors.

Into this challenging market will step Sony/Screen Gems' "The Roommate" and Universal's James Cameron-produced 3D film "Sanctum," which will both open wide this weekend.

Also opening in limited release: Natalie Portman comedy-drama "The Other Woman" from IFC, and romantic comedy "Waiting for Forever" from Freestyle Releasing.

"The Roommate," which stars "Gossip Girl's" Leighton Meester as a "Single White Female"-esque crazy girl, opens up in 2,534 theaters and is expected to lead the weekend box office, grossing somewhere around $16 million.

With tracking suggesting solid 87 percent awareness among women under 25, and strong 43 percent definite interest among that group, "The Roommate" is probably as Super Bowl resistant as a movie can get this weekend.

Produced by Vertigo Entertainment at a cost of $8 million, one rival-studio executive described the film as "so bad, it's funny. It'll be a standing feature at slumber parties for years to come."

Certainly, Super Bowl weekend has an attractive recent precedent for Sony, which opened the Amanda Seyfried romantic drama "Dear John" to $30.5 million during the NFL's championship weekend last year.

Super Bowl weekend 2010 was also when that Cameron's "Avatar" finally fell out of first place at the domestic box office after more than a month and a half of release.

A year later, Cameron's name is back on the marquee, but the ambition is a bit scaled down.

With Cameron producing the trapped-in-an-under-water-cave thriller "Sanctum" using the same already-developed 3D-technology infrastructure he used for "Avatar," and the film relying on little-known talent, "Sanctum" is an inexpensive offering.

In fact, Universal and Relativity acquired distribution rights for $12 million ... and expect to make back between $8 million to $10 million this weekend.