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Zombie Love Tale ‘Warm Bodies’ No. 1 Film With $20.4 Million

“Warm Bodies,” a romantic comedy pairing a zombie and a human, opened as the top movie in U.S. and Canadian theaters, with $20.4 million in ticket sales for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF) over the Super Bowl weekend.

“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D,” an update of the Grimm’s fairy tale, dropped to second with $9.4 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. Among other new releases, Sylvester Stallone’s “Bullet to the Head” opened in sixth place for Warner Bros.

The annual National Football League championship, this year between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, typically cuts into ticket sales and results in one of the slowest weekends for cinemas. Both “Warm Bodies” and “Bullet to the Head” target the same younger male audience likely to stay home and tune into the NFL showdown.

“Expectations were pretty muted for this weekend, given the Super Bowl and likely impact it’ll have for attendance overall,” said Paul Sweeney, senior media and Internet analyst for Bloomberg Industries, in a telephone interview. It’s “a lull, if you will, for Hollywood.”

In “Warm Bodies,” based on Isaac Marion’s novel, a zombie epidemic sweeps the earth. Amid the struggle for survival, slacker zombie “R,” played by Nicholas Hoult, retains enough of his humanity to remind himself not to be creepy when approaching pretty human girls. R rescues an attractive young woman, Julie, from fellow zombies and romance ensues. The film features Teresa Palmer as Julie.

Canny Rebuke

Bloomberg critics Greg Evans and Craig Seligman called the film a canny rebuke “to the insufferable ‘Twilight’” teen vampire romance pictures and “almost certainly the sweetest zombie movie ever made.”

“Bullet to the Head” opened with sales of $4.5 million. The film stars Stallone as a hitman who joins with a detective to avenge the murders of their respective partners. The picture, from Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s film division, co-stars Sung Kang as a Washington detective who teams up with Stallone.

“Hansel and Gretel,” from Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as adult versions of the brother and sister who, in the fairy tale, kill a witch who plans to cook and eat them. Now grown up, the two have become hunters who rid villages of troublesome witches for a price.

‘Silver Linings’

Weinstein Co.’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” an Academy Award nominee for best picture, was third with sales of $7.7 million. The movie, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, follows an adult son who returns to his parents’ home after months in a psychiatric hospital.

Lawrence and Cooper received Oscar nominations for their leading roles, while De Niro and Jacki Weaver garnered supporting actor nominations.

The horror tale “Mama” dropped to fourth from second, collecting $6.6 million for Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures.

“Zero Dark Thirty,” director Kathryn Bigelow’s account of the CIA’s hunt for Osama Bin Laden, was fifth with $5.2 million. The Sony Corp. (6758) movie stars Jessica Chastain, and is nominated for five Academy Awards, including one for best picture and one for Chastain as best actress.

It has generated $77.7 million domestically since it opened on Dec. 19. The Academy Awards will be handed out on Feb. 24 in a live telecast on ABC.

Revenue for the top 12 films fell 27 percent to $68.8 million from the year-earlier weekend, Hollywood.com said. Sales for the first five weeks of the year are up 3.4 percent to $917 million. Attendance is up 3.1 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Feb. 1 to Feb. 3.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
 1 WARM BODIES       $20.4    3,009   $6,764    --    $20.4    1
 2 HANSEL AND GRETEL   9.4    3,375    2,792   -52     34.7    2
 3 SILVER LININGS      7.7    2,809    2,755   -18     80.0   12
 4 MAMA                6.6    2,781    2,370   -50     58.1    3
 5 ZERO DARK THIRTY    5.2    2,871    1,803   -47     77.7    7
 6 BULLET TO THE HEAD  4.5    2,404    1,892    --      4.5    1
 7 PARKER              3.2    2,238    1,431   -54     12.5    2
 8 DJANGO UNCHAINED    3.0    1,777    1,690   -39    150.9    6
 9 LES MISERABLES      2.4    1,848    1,310   -43    141.5    6
10 LINCOLN             2.4    1,756    1,368   -38    170.8   13
11 ARGO                2.0      935    2,170    12    120.4   17
12 THE HOBBIT          1.9    1,300    1,462   -44    296.2    8

Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $68.8         $94.1       -27

Year-to-date Revenue

     2013          2012
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $917          $887       +3.4

Year-to-date Attendance:      +3.1%

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net

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

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