Friday Box Office: ‘Machete’ Slices Up $3.9M, ‘American’ Close Behind at $3.8M

During a sluggish weekend, “Going the Distance” stumbles out of the gate with $2.3 million

Last Updated: September 4, 2010 @ 10:02 AM

Grindhouse beat art house by a razor's edge on Friday as Robert Rodriguez' "Machete" opened to $3.9 million.  George Clooney’s hitman drama “The American” was close behind with $3.8 million, according to studio estimates.

Robert Rodriguez’s knife wielding ex-federale film “Machete” premiered in slightly fewer screens, 2,670, but had the strongest pre-release tracking and buzz. The blood splattered revenge fest will probably take in around $15 million, which may be strong enough for first place over a sluggish Labor Day weekend. It  represents a favorable return on the just $8 million Fox spent to acquire the movie.

Clooney's moody thriller is on target to exceed low teens pre-release tracking. The $20 million Focus Features movie premiered to lukewarm reviews in 2,823 theaters. It may overtake "Machete" when the dust has cleared from the holiday, with a take of between $15 to $16 million.

Here's how Friday's top 10 shaped up (full box-office report continues below chart):

Not faring so sweetly is the Drew Barrymore and Justin Long vehicle “Going the Distance.” Made for $36 million, "Distance" didn't get very far, taking in just $2.3 million. The Warner Brothers romantic comedy should eke out $9 million over the four day holiday. Bowing in 3,030 screens, "Distance" had been expected to match the $14 million brought in by the similarly themed “All About Steve” over the same weekend last year.

Sony’s “Takers” declined 60 percent to take in $3 million on Friday. The caper film's total stands at $29.5 million through its first eight days in release.

Also experiencing fading powers at the box office was Lionsgate’s “The Last Exorcism.” As with most films in the horror genre, “Exorcism cratered 76 percent in its second week of release to take in $2.3 million. Acquired for less than $1 million, the low-budget film has netted its studio $27 million since opening last weekend.

With returns like that, the mini-major probably isn't sweating the drop-off.