‘Limitless’ Debuts as Top Film With $19 Million in Sales

“Limitless,” a thriller from Relativity Media LLC about a mind-expanding drug, opened in first place in U.S. and Canadian theaters with sales of $19 million.

“Rango,” the Johnny Depp animated comedy, held at second place with $15.3 million in sales for Viacom Inc. (VIA/B)’s Paramount and Nickelodeon divisions, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today. “Battle: Los Angeles,” Sony Corp. (6758)’s special- effects thriller about an alien invasion, fell to third from first with sales of $14.6 million and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF), debuted in fourth place with $13.4 million.

Revenue for the top 12 films this weekend fell 8.7 percent to $104.5 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said in an e-mailed statement, as new films failed to match the appeal of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” the box- office leaders a year earlier.

Domestic box-office sales this year have fallen 20 percent to $2.02 billion. Attendance is down 21 percent.

“We thought ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ would top the weekend,” Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office division of Hollywood.com, said in a telephone interview. “It’s an action movie appealing to teen males, and they all rushed to see it opening weekend. I thought it would do better.”

Blame ‘Avatar’

“Everybody’s laying it on the door of ‘Avatar’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Dergarabedian said. “It’s just the malaise that’s overtaking the industry. We will have an enormous summer.” Summer releases include new Harry Potter” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, he said.

“Limitless” stars Bradley Cooper as an aspiring author who takes an experimental drug that enables people to use 100 percent of their minds. Robert De Niro co-stars as a business mogul who wants to use the writer’s new intellect to increase his fortune.

“Bradley Cooper had been sort of an unknown quantity as a leading man,” Dergarabedian said. “This proves Cooper may be the leading man for the moment. And Relativity Media did a fantastic job of advertising this movie.” He said pre-opening estimates for the box-office gross were in the “low-to-mid teens.”

Relativity, the studio releasing “Limitless,” is closely held and independent.

Depp Holds On

“Rango” features Depp as a chameleon who tries to clean up the Wild West town of Dirt. It marks another collaboration of the actor and director Gore Verbinski, who oversaw Depp in Disney’s successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” series and has ticket sales of $92.6 million since its release three weeks ago.

Revenue for “Rango” fell 32 percent from the previous week. Dergarabedian called that a “very strong hold” and predicted the film would gross more than $100 million.

“Battle: Los Angeles” features Aaron Eckhart as a Marine who leads a platoon trying to save the survivors of an alien attack. Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan co-star in the film, which was expected to take in about $18 million this weekend, the estimate of Gitesh Pandya, the editor of Box Office Guru.

Sony’s Columbia Pictures spent an estimated $100 million making the movie, according to the Internet Movie Database, and has taken in $60.6 million in two weeks of release, according to Hollywood.com. Portions were filmed in Louisiana, which has offered subsidies to producers for almost 20 years.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” stars Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer who works out of a black Lincoln sedan. His life takes a dangerous turn after he is hired to defend a Beverly Hills man accused of rape.

Discounted Tickets

Lions Gate sold about 190,000 discounted tickets to the film through the e-mail service Groupon Inc., the Los Angeles Times reported on March 18. Users paid $6, with the studio making up the difference in the usual price charged by theaters, the newspaper said.

The science-fiction comedy “Paul,” also new for the weekend, had sales of $13.2 million for Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures to take fifth place. In the film, an alien named Paul escapes from a U.S. military base. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play two slackers who try to return him to his space ship. Seth Rogen provides the voice for the computer-generated Paul.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for March 18 and 19 and estimates for today.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
1 LIMITLESS            $19.0   2,756   $6,894   --    $19.0   1
2 RANGO                 15.3   3,843    3,985   -32    92.6   3
3 BATTLE: LOS ANGELES   14.6   3,417    4,273   -59    60.6   2
4 THE LINCOLN LAWYER    13.4   2,707    4,950   --     13.4   1
5 PAUL                  13.2   2,802    4,695   --     13.2   1
6 RED RIDING HOOD        7.3   3,030    2,394   -48    26.0   2
7 THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU  5.9   2,660    2,230   -49    48.8   3
8 MARS NEEDS MOMS!       5.3   3,117    1,706   -23    15.4   2
9 BEASTLY                3.3   1,810    1,801   -35    22.2   3
10 HALL PASS             2.6   1,905    1,365   -48    39.6   4
11 GNOMEO AND JULIET     2.4   1,748    1,358   -34    93.7   6
12 JUST GO WITH IT       2.3   1,708    1,347   -43    98.0   6


Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $104.5        $114.5      -8.7


Year-to-date Revenue:

     2011          2010
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
   $2,017.5      $2,523.1     -20.0


Year-to-date Attendance:      -21.2%

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net

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

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