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The Rock’s ‘Witch Mountain’ Topples ‘Watchmen’

“Watchmen” drops 67% as Disney’s “Race to Witch Mountain” leads the box office with an unexpected $25 million take.

Disney’s ‘little’ $50 million adventure film “Race to Witch Mountain” outpaced “Watchmen” at the box-office this weekend with an unexpected $25 million take.

Zack Snyder’s dark super-hero epic landed in the No. 2 spot with $18 million — a sharp 67 percent tumble in sales from last week. 

According to estimates by Media By Numbers, Universal’s “The Last House on the Left” debuted in the No. 3 spot with $14.7 million — considerably less than its fellow horror remakes have reaped this year. “My Bloody Valentine 3D” raked in $24.1 million in its opening weekend and “Friday the 13th” opened with $42 million.

“Witch Mountain,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, exceeded even its studio’s expectations. Johnson’s last Disney film, “The Game Plan,” debuted with $23 million in 2007. On Friday, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution president Chuck Viane told TheWrap he’d be pleased if the film made just below $20 million.

“To win the weekend by this number is terrific,” he said on Sunday. “Dwayne’s a bigger star than anyone gives him credit for and (director) Andy Fickman just makes great movies.”

Viane attributed “Witch’s” success in part to the many adults who saw it without children. Remarkably, couples without children comprised 18% of the PG-13 film’s audience.

“That is a really nice number for unaccompanied couples. It helped us become a four quadrant movie,” Viane noted.

But what happened to “Watchmen?” Although the film’s $56 million opening weekend didn’t break the $70 million record set by Snyder’s “300” in 2007, the adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic graphic novel had been holding steady. Movie ticketing site Fandango.com reported that “Watchmen” still comprised 52% of their sales on Friday, and Movietickets.com said sales for “Watchmen” in IMAX theaters were going strong.

But Chris Aronson, 20th Century Fox’s senior vp and general sales manager, said “Watchmen’s” numbers were bound to drop significantly after core fans of the graphic novel had seen it in on opening weekend.

“Anytime you have a film that’s so fan-base driven, you have to expect a pretty steep drop off," he said. "I think it’s going to stabilize a little bit and I think it’ll do better than the gloom and doomers thought it would do.”

Many in Hollywood are skeptical that that "Watchmen" will make a profit for Warner Bros, given its $150 million price tag and dramatic drop-off this week.

Another studio executive, who declined to be identified, said “Watchmen” simply didn’t live up to the hype and fell victim to fickle box-office trends.

“There was such a pent-up demand to that movie,” the executive said. “Our business is becoming a lot like pay-per-view. Everybody rushes out for the immediacy of the weekend. It’s only pictures like ‘Taken’ and ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop’ that find their legs and keep running,” the executive said.  “But there’s a whole lot of the other movies like ‘Friday the 13th’ and maybe now ‘Watchmen’ that come and go pretty quickly.”

Another surprise hit, “Taken,” kept running this weekend, dropping only nine percent in sales in its seventh weekend in release. The Luc Besson-produced thriller starring Liam Neeson even overtook “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail” to land in the No. 4 spot.

And while it didn’t make the Top 10, Overture Film’s “Sunshine Cleaning,” about a mom who starts a crime-scene clean-up service, starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, made a very strong start out of the gate.

The film took in $214,000 on just four screens this weekend — a theater average of $53,500. According to Media by Numbers’ Paul Dergarabedian, that was the highest opening weekend theater average for all films released so far in 2009.