‘Limitless’ Debuts as Top Film With $18.9 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 over the weekend with box-office sales of $18.9 million.

“Rango,” the Johnny Depp animated comedy, held at second place with $15.1 million, Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in a statement. “Battle: Los Angeles,” Sony Corp. (6758)’s special- effects thriller about an alien invasion, fell to third from first with $14.5 million. “The Lincoln Lawyer,” from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF), opened in fourth with $13.2 million.

“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.”

Revenue for the top 12 films this weekend fell 9.7 percent to $103.4 million, Hollywood.com said, 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.

Business Is ‘Soft’

“Even compared to normal years, business continues to be soft,” Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, said in a telephone interview. “The main thing is this is a product- driven industry and the product has been lacking in appeal.”

“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.

“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. The film, from Viacom Inc. (VIA/B)’s Nickelodeon and Paramount divisions, has collected sales of $92.3 million in three weeks.

Saving Los Angeles

“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 has taken in $60.5 million in two weeks.

Sony’s Columbia Pictures spent an estimated $100 million making the movie, according to the Internet Movie Database.

“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.

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 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 18-20.

                     Rev.             Avg./    Pct.    Total
Movie               (mln)  Theaters  Theater   Chg.    (mln) Wks
 1 LIMITLESS          $18.9  2,756   $6,860     --    $18.9    1
 2 RANGO               15.1  3,843    3,923    -33     92.3    3
 3 BATTLE:LOS ANGELES  14.5  3,417    4,255    -59     60.5    2
 4 THE LINCOLN LAWYER  13.2  2,707    4,879     --     13.2    1
 5 PAUL                13.0  2,802    4,655     --     13.0    1
 6 RED RIDING HOOD      7.2  3,030    2,372    -49     25.9    2
 7 ADJUSTMENT BUREAU    5.8  2,660    2,170    -50     48.6    3
 8 MARS NEEDS MOMS!     5.3  3,117    1,706    -23     15.4    2
 9 BEASTLY              3.2  1,810    1,767    -36     22.2    3
10 HALL PASS            2.6  1,905    1,348    -49     39.6    4
11 GNOMEO AND JULIET    2.3  1,748    1,315    -36     93.6    6
12 JUST GO WITH IT      2.2  1,708    1,314    -44     98.0    6

Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $103.4        $114.5      -9.7

Year-to-date Revenue

     2011          2010
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $2,018        $2,523       -20

Year-to-date Attendance:      -21%

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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