NBC Universal's `The American' Leads Box Office With $16 Million in Sales

“The American,” a spy thriller from Universal Pictures’ Focus Features, was the top movie in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the Labor Day weekend with $16.4 million in receipts.

Fox’s “Machete” made its debut in second place, while last week’s No. 1 film, the crime drama “Takers,” dropped to third, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e- mailed statement.

“The American,” which stars George Clooney, is the first Universal release to lead the box office since “Despicable Me” on July 9. Audience attention tends to fade toward the end of summer as other interests take hold, said Brandon Gray, president of Sherman Oaks, California-based Box Office Mojo.

“It’s partly by design because Hollywood doesn’t release many appealing movies this time of year,” Gray said. “It’s the last hurrah of summer.”

Universal Pictures, owned by General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal, ranked sixth among the major Hollywood studios in U.S. ticket sales this year with $699 million as of Sept. 2, according to Box Office Mojo.

“The American” had a “pretty standard” opening for a Clooney movie, Gray said. The actor plays an assassin who is hiding out in Italy between assignments. His circumstances become more perilous after he is asked to build a weapon for another hit.

‘Machete’

The Robert Rodriguez action film “Machete” had $14 million in receipts for News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox over four days, according to Hollywood.com. Actor Danny Trejo plays a former Mexican police officer who seeks revenge against a group that betrayed him. The movie co-stars Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro and Don Johnson.

“Takers,” from Sony Corp., had $13.5 million in sales. The film features singer Chris Brown and Hayden Christensen, who leads a group of bank robbers being chased by a veteran detective played by Matt Dillon.

The horror film “The Last Exorcism” fell to fourth from second with $8.8 million. The movie, from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., depicts a camera crew assigned to follow a preacher performing his final exorcism before quitting the practice.

‘Going the Distance’

“Going the Distance” opened in fifth place, generating $8.6 million for Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. The romantic comedy stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as a couple trying to maintain a relationship while one lives in Los Angeles and the other in Chicago.

Weekend sales for the top 12 films fell 0.8 percent to $80.5 million from $81.1 million in the year-ago period, Hollywood.com said. Year-to-date receipts total $7.7 billion, up 4.1 percent from $7.4 billion. Attendance has fallen 1.5 percent this year.

The following table has figures provided by studios to Los Angeles-based Hollywood.com. The amounts are based on actual ticket sales for Sept. 3-5 and estimates for today.

Rev. Avg./ Pct. Total Movie (mln) Theaters Theater Chg. (mln) Wks ================================================================ 1 THE AMERICAN $16.4 2,823 $5,805 -- $19.5 1 2 MACHETE 14.0 2,670 5,243 -- 14.0 1 3 TAKERS 13.5 2,206 6,120 -44 40.0 2 4 THE LAST EXORCISM 8.8 2,874 3,055 -64 33.6 2 5 GOING THE DISTANCE 8.6 3,030 2,842 -- 8.6 1 6 THE EXPENDABLES 8.5 3,398 2,501 -30 94.1 4 7 THE OTHER GUYS 6.7 2,607 2,551 -16 108.1 5 8 EAT PRAY LOVE 6.3 2,663 2,347 -20 70.4 4 9 INCEPTION 5.9 1,704 3,439 -7 278.4 8 10 NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS 4.7 2,708 1,725 -26 23.5 3 11 THE SWITCH 3.9 1,885 2,085 -33 22.3 3 12 DESPICABLE ME 3.9 1,600 2,430 +1 241.3 9

Top 12 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct.

(mln) (mln) Chg. ===================================

$80.5 $81.1 -0.75

Year-to-date Revenue

2010 2009

YTD YTD Pct.

(mln) (mln) Chg. ===================================

$7,700 $7,367 4.1

Year-to-date Attendance: -1.46%

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net. Esmé E. Deprez in New York at edeprez@bloomberg.net.

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