UPDATE 2-'Chronicle' wins tight box office race

Sun Feb 5, 2012 4:01pm EST

* 'Chronicle' edges Radcliffe's 'Woman in Black'

* Young audience helps films beat forecasts

* Super Bowl weekend up 37 pct from last year

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Teen boys with superpowers helped lift the movie box office to unexpected heights over Super Bowl weekend as thriller "Chronicle" edged "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe's haunted house movie "The Woman in Black."

"Chronicle" brought in an estimated $22.0 million from U.S. and Canadian theaters, studio estimates released on Sunday showed. The movie with largely unknown actors finished just ahead of Radcliffe's "Woman in Black," which took in an estimated $21.0 million.

Both performances surpassed projections from studio executives, who had expected weaker sales against competition from Sunday's Super Bowl football championship. The tallies include actual ticket receipts for Friday and Saturday plus estimates for Sunday at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters.

"Chronicle" added $13 million from 33 international markets, for a global weekend total of $35 million.

The appearance of young moviegoers, who had shunned some recent films targeted to them, boosted the top two films.

"The teen audience seems to be coming back to movies again. There was serious worry they were fading," said John Davis, who produced "Chronicle."

The movie tells the story of three teenage boys who develop superpowers and find they have a dark side. People under age 25 made up 61 percent of the movie's audience, distributor 20th Century Fox said. Fifty-five percent were males.

The studio produced "Chronicle" for about $12 million and had forecast debut weekend sales below $10 million.

Young moviegoers also propelled "Woman in Black" well past studio expectations of around $10 million. Fifty-seven percent of filmgoers were under age 25, and 59 percent were females.

The movie was Radcliffe's first since the blockbuster "Harry Potter" franchise ended last summer. The film attracted Radcliffe's young female fans plus "an audience that likes to be scared but not grossed out," said Steven Friedlander, executive vice president of theatrical distribution for CBS Films, the unit of CBS Corp that released the movie.

"Woman in Black" scored as the biggest debut weekend ever for CBS Films, which has struggled with its five earlier movies. The studio's biggest previous opening was a $12.2 million debut for "The Back-up Plan."

With "Woman in Black," the studio acquired domestic distribution rights for $3 million and spent about $15 million on marketing.

Elsewhere this weekend, Liam Neeson thriller "The Grey," dropped to third place with $9.5 million. The movie ranked No. 1 last weekend and has brought in $34.8 million domestically after two weekends in theaters.

SUPER BOWL ALTERNATIVES

Total ticket sales outpaced the same weekend last year by nearly 37 percent despite competition from the Super Bowl, according to the box office division of Hollywood.com. Sales for all films reached $119 million.

"Big Miracle," a drama based on the true story of a whale rescue, aimed to offer a non-football alternative to young women and girls. The movie finished the weekend in fourth place with $8.5 million domestically, in line with studio forecasts.

The movie starring Drew Barrymore and "The Office" actor John Krasinski cost less than $40 million to produce.

In fifth place, vampire and werewolf sequel "Underworld: Awakening" starring Kate Beckinsale took in $5.6 million at domestic theaters. To date, the movie's worldwide sales stand at $108.3 million.

News Corp unit 20th Century Fox distributed "Chronicle." "Big Miracle" was released by Universal Pictures, a division of Comcast Corp. Open Road Films, a joint venture between theater owners Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc, distributed "The Grey." The film studio of Sony Corp released "Underworld: Awakening."

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