‘Cowboys’ Opens at No. 1 With $36.4 Million in Ticket Sales

“Cowboys & Aliens,” featuring Daniel Craig as an Old West gunman who battles space invaders, emerged as the top movie in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, with $36.4 million in ticket sales for Universal Pictures.

The film edged out “The Smurfs,” which generated a revised $35.6 million for Sony Corp. (6758), Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in a statement. Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love” with Steve Carell collected $19 million to open in fifth.

“Cowboys & Aliens” is the third film from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal to open in first place this year, following “Fast Five” and “Hop.” The movie, co-produced by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks SKG and Relativity Media LLC, was expected to generate sales of $40 million, the estimate of Boxofficeguru.com.

The sci-fi Western battled “reviews that were certainly mixed at best,” Gitesh Pandya, chief executive officer of Boxofficeguru.com, said in an interview. “For an older, male- skewing film like ‘Cowboys,’ reviews matter.”

In the film, Craig’s character, Jake Lonergan, leads a posse of ranchers and outlaws in a fight against aliens who attacked their town and abducted several residents. They are aided in the fight by a highly advanced weapon shackled to Lonergan’s wrist. Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde co-star.

Combining live action and computer-generated effects, “The Smurfs” stars Neil Patrick Harris as a New Yorker who helps the tiny, blue creatures after they are forced from their village by an evil wizard. The picture is based on characters from the late cartoonist Pierre Culliford.

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Pandya credits the film’s opening success to effective promotion by the studio. “They did a lot of out-of-the-box marketing to make it a summer event film for kids,” he said. The movie also “has a retro-chic appeal to it.”

Last weekend’s leader, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” slipped to third place with sales of $25.6 million for Viacom Inc. (VIA/B)’s Paramount Pictures.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” the final installment in the films based on J.K. Rowling’s novels about a boy wizard, was fourth with sales of $22 million.

The latest “Harry Potter” movie, the eighth in the series, has taken in more than $1 billion in global ticket sales and is the top-grossing film in the history of Time Warner’s Warner Bros., according to a statement.

In Warner Bros.’ “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” Carell plays a strait-laced family man whose life unravels after he discovers that his wife has cheated on him. A younger man, played by Ryan Gosling, guides him through a world of singles bars and flirting women.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 26 percent to $170.8 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Domestic box-office sales this year have declined 5.6 percent to $6.42 billion, while attendance is down 6.5 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for July 29-31.

                      Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total Movie
               (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
 1 COWBOYS & ALIENS  $36.4   3,750   $9,715     --    $36.4    1
 2 THE SMURFS         35.6   3,395   10,489     --     35.6    1
 3 CAPTAIN AMERICA    25.6   3,715    6,879    -61    117.4    2
 4 HARRY POTTER       22.0   4,145    5,302    -54    318.5    3
 5 CRAZY STUPID LOVE  19.1   3,020    6,326     --     19.1    1
 6 FRIENDS W/BENEFITS  9.3   2,926    3,170    -50     38.2    2
 7 HORRIBLE BOSSES     7.2   2,510    2,864    -40     96.3    4
 8 TRANSFORMERS        6.1   2,604    2,337    -49    338.0    5
 9 ZOOKEEPER           4.3   2,418    1,779    -51     68.8    4
10 CARS 2              2.3   1,763    1,332    -58    182.1    6
11 WINNIE THE POOH     1.8   1,632    1,089    -66     22.4    3
12 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS   1.2     471    2,456    -36     46.9   11

Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $170.8        $136.1       +26


Year-to-date Revenue

     2011          2010
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $6,419        $6,797      -5.6

Year-to-date Attendance:     -6.5%

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Janet Lorin in New York jlorin@bloomberg.net.

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

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