Time Warner’s ‘Unknown’ Tops Box Office With $26 Million

The action film “Unknown” from Time Warner Inc. finished as the top film with ticket sales of $25.6 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the four-day Presidents Day weekend.

The animated “Gnomeo and Juliet” took second place with $24.8 million for Walt Disney Co., edging out the science- fiction thriller “I Am Number Four” from Disney and DreamWorks Studios, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e- mailed statement.

Sales rose compared with a year ago, reversing 14 weeks of decline. The year-to-year comparison excludes estimates for today’s U.S. holiday, which occurred a week later this year. Until this past weekend, new releases had been overshadowed by the performance last year of “Avatar,” the top-grossing film in history with $2.78 billion in worldwide ticket revenue.

“The 2011 box office is starting to show signs of life, which is a tribute to better product,” said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, an audience-reporting service. “‘Unknown’ had a solid opening, and was somewhat of a surprise No. 1.”

U.S. schools, government offices and some businesses are closed today for Presidents Day, adding a day to weekend sales.

“Unknown” stars Liam Neeson as a botanist who wakes up from a coma to find that another man has stolen his identity, job and wife. His fear and confusion are compounded when assassins try to take his life. January Jones and Aidan Quinn co-star.

‘Gnomeo & Juliet’

“Gnomeo & Juliet” rose to second place from third in its second week. The family film, about romance among garden gnomes, features the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt and Maggie Smith. It generated $19.2 million in sales for the first three days, benefiting from today’s holiday to overtake “I Am Number Four” for the four-day weekend.

“I Am Number Four,” which sold $22.6 million in tickets over four days and $19.4 million over three, stars Alex Pettyfer as a teenager who goes on the run after discovering that he possesses extraordinary powers. Timothy Olyphant co-stars. The film was produced by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios and distributed by Burbank, California-based Disney.

Gray said “I Am Number Four” had a larger promotional campaign and more “hype” than “Unknown.” “Moviegoers just weren’t attracted to the story,” he said.

“Just Go With It,” starring Adam Sandler, dropped to fourth from first with $21.7 million over four days. In the Sony Corp. movie, Sandler portrays a plastic surgeon who is attracted to a younger woman. He enlists his assistant, played by Jennifer Aniston, to help cover up the lies he tells.

‘Big Mommas’

The weekend’s other new release, “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,” from News Corp., was fifth with $19 million. The film is the third in the series starring Martin Lawrence as an FBI agent who goes undercover as an overweight, middle-age woman.

In the new film, he dons his disguise at an all-girls school to investigate a murder. Model Brooklyn Decker co-stars as the new love interest. The first two movies generated $312.2 million in worldwide sales, according to Box Office Mojo.

Domestic box-office sales this year total $1.39 billion, down 22 percent from a year earlier. Attendance is off 23 percent. Revenue for the top 12 films this weekend was $129.4 million, a 5.9 percent increase from the year-ago period, according to Hollywood.com.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Feb. 18-19 and estimates for yesterday.

THREE-DAY TOTALS

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
1 UNKNOWN              $21.8   3,043   $7,154   --    $25.6   1
2 I AM NUMBER FOUR      19.4   3,154    6,183   --     22.6   1
3 GNOMEO AND JULIET     19.2   3,014    6,437   -23    55.8   2
4 JUST GO WITH IT       18.2   3,548    5,130   -40    64.3   2
5 BIG MOMMAS            16.3   2,821    6,026   --     19.0   1
6 JUSTIN BIEBER         13.3   3,118    4,362   -54    51.4   2
7 THE KING’S SPEECH      6.5   2,086    3,147    -9   104.6  13
8 THE ROOMMATE           4.1   2,160    1,898   -50    33.1   3
9 THE EAGLE              3.6   2,296    1,550   -59    15.8   2
10 NO STRINGS ATTACHED   3.1   1,966    1,587   -46    66.6   5
11 TRUE GRIT             2.4   1,465    1,638   -37   164.6   9
12 SANCTUM               1.6   1,377    1,145   -72    22.1   3

Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $129.4        $122.1      5.94


Year-to-date Revenue:

     2011          2010
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
   $1,386.9       $1,778.6    -22.0

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Cordell Eddings in New York at ceddings@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo in Los Angeles at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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