* "Rango" maintains hold on No. 2 with $15.3 million
* "Battle: Los Angeles" drops 60 pct, lands at No. 3
* Total weekend ticket sales off 10 pct from year ago.
(Adds byline, bullets, new movies throughout)
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES, March 20 Thriller "Limitless"
topped North American box offices with $19 million in ticket
sale over a lackluster weekend that continued Hollywood's
losing streak versus last year.
The movie, in which Bradley Cooper portrays a man who is
able to exponentially increase his brainpower by taking a drug,
beat animated family film "Rango," which maintained the No. 2
spot in its third weekend in theaters with $15.3 million,
according to studio estimates on Sunday.
Rounding out the top three was last week's No. 1, alien
invasion flick "Battle: Los Angeles," which saw its box office
slide nearly 60 percent from last weekend to $14.6 million.
(For box office chart click on [ID:nN20215390])
The weekend's two other new films were drama "The Lincoln
Lawyer," which claimed the No. 4 spot with $13.4 million, and
road trip comedy "Paul," rounding out the top 5 at just under
Overall ticket sales in the United States and Canada were
down roughly 10 percent from the same weekend one year ago, and
it was the fourth straight weekend of a decline at box offices
versus 2010, according to tracker Hollywood.com Box Office.
Year-to-date ticket sales are off 20 percent and attendance
in theaters is down 21 percent against last year when "Avatar"
and "Alice in Wonderland" captured moviegoers' imaginations.
Box offices have been in the doldrums since November 2010,
but Hollywood hopes that will change when its summer movie
season starts in early May with a series of big-budget flicks.
"The first quarter of 2011 has been one we'd like to forget
with comparisons to last year making things tough, week after
week," said Hollywood.com president Paul Dergarabedian.
"Luckily help is on the way with a potentially huge and record
breaking summer season."
Where this past weekend was concerned, Relativity Media was
happy with the $19 million mustered by "Limitless," given that
pre-weekend forecasting had all three of the weekend's new
releases opening in the mid-teen's.
"To be in the high-teens and closer to $20 (million) was a
pleasant surprise," said Kyle Davies, president of theatrical
distribution for closely-held Relativity. He said the movie
played broadly across all age groups.
Similarly, Lions Gate distribution head David Spitz had
expected an opening in the $10 million to $12 million range for
adult-oriented legal drama "The Lincoln Lawyer," starring
Matthew McConaughey. Spitz said the movie enjoyed good scores
from audience polling, and given its appeal to older audiences,
should enjoy a "nice long run in theaters."
Family-oriented animated comedy "Rango," in which Johnny
Depp voices the role of a chameleon cowboy, continued to
surprise box office watchers with its hold on second place with
only a 32 percent drop in ticket sales from last weekend. It
now has accumulated $92.6 million in three weeks.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Disney's (DIS.N)
animated "Mars Needs Moms!" which at a reported cost of $150
million has been an expensive flop. In its second weekend, it
dropped to No. 8 on box office charts from a debut at No. 5,
and now has only $15.4 million in total ticket sales.
"Limitless" was released by closely held Relativity Media,
"Rango" by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc VIAb.N,
and "Battle: Los Angeles" by Columbia Pictures, a part of the
media division of giant Sony Corp 6578.T. "The Lincoln
Lawyer" was distributed by Lions Gate (LGF.N), and "Paul" by
Universal Pictures, which is controlled by Comcast Corp.
(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Eric Walsh and