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'Expendables' just won't quit

John Horn
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — When it comes to people of a certain age, Hollywood has a certain reputation. Older screenwriters say they can't get jobs, leading parts for actresses start vanishing once they turn 35 and the studios have all but abandoned adult dramas. Which makes the continued success of "The Expendables" all the more remarkable.

For the second weekend in a row, the action movie starring, directed and co-written by the 64-year-old Sylvester Stallone was the nation's No. 1 film, grossing $16.5 million, according to Sunday's studio estimates.

The ensemble movie featuring veteran actors more likely to be cast in Cialis ads (the cast includes the 52-year-old Dolph Lundgren, the 54-year-old Eric Roberts and the 57-year-old Mickey Rourke) continued to draw a surprising number of female ticket buyers — some 38 percent of the audience, distributor Lionsgate says — which helped it top the surprisingly strong debut of the 20th Century Fox/Regency Enterprises parody "Vampires Suck."

"It's holding as well with women as it is with men," Michael Burns, the vice chairman of Lionsgate, said of "The Expendables'" performance. "It delivers, and the exit polls are great." Lionsgate opened the film in the United Kingdom last weekend, where it grossed about $5.7 million to finish first. "The Expendables," financed by Avi Lerner's Millennium and Nu Image Films, now has grossed $64.9 million in its domestic release and has done well overseas.

"Vampires Suck" performed much better than had been forecast, and the urban comedy "Lottery Ticket" premiered well, but the returns for the three other new movies in wide release were unimpressive. "Piranha 3D" finished in sixth despite the ticket surcharge at stereoscopic theaters, seventh-place "Nanny McPhee Returns" grossed barely half as much in its first weekend as its predecessor film did four years ago and Jennifer Aniston's "The Switch" barely cracked the Top 10, finishing eighth.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co.'s critically acclaimed documentary "The Tillman Story" premiered to good returns, grossing $50,000 in four locations. The year's cumulative grosses of $7.4 billion are up more than 4 percent from the same point in 2009, but admission remains down more than 1 percent, and Labor Day heralds the arrival over the next several weeks of a number of movies with limited commercial potential.

"Vampires Suck," a lightly regarded spoof of the movies based on novelist Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster "Twilight" series, grossed $12.2 million for second place, well ahead of projections. The send-up from Peter Safran, the producer behind the spoofs "Meet the Spartans" and "Disaster Movie," drew a large number of young boys (about 45 percent of the audience) who would have never dared to be seen inside one of the "Twilight" films, Fox said.

Counting sales from its Wednesday premiere, "Vampires Suck" has grossed $18.6 million. "When you gross in the first five days what it costs to make the picture, it's a great success," Senior Vice President Bert Livingston said.

Julia Roberts' "Eat Pray Love" finished third with $12 million, but the film slid a worrisome 48 percent from its second-place premiere last weekend. Sony Pictures was hoping its adaptation of the best-selling memoir from Elizabeth Gilbert would spark strong audience recommendations and might have the same staying power as last year's "Julie & Julia." But Sony's Julia Child biography fell less than 40 percent in its second weekend.

"Lottery Ticket," the Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. comedy about the perils of winning a huge jackpot starring rapper Bow Wow, came in fourth with $11.1 million. "The Other Guys," Sony's police comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, was fifth in its third weekend of release, grossing $10.1 million.

Despite numerous supportive reviews, the Weinstein Co.'s long-delayed "Piranha 3D" could do no better than sixth, grossing $10.04 million. It was a marginally better opening than the cash-strapped studio's last release, January's "Youth in Revolt," which grossed $6.9 million in its initial weekend.

"Nanny McPhee Returns," a relatively well-reviewed family film about an eccentric English babysitter (Emma Thompson) from Universal Pictures and Working Title Films, was seventh with a meager $8.3 million, far short of projections. The first film in the series, released in 2006, grossed $14.5 million in its first weekend.

"The Switch," a romantic comedy about artificial insemination (once with the far more interesting title "The Baster") from the just-sold Miramax Films, grossed $8.1 million for eighth, narrowly below projections but well below some of the premieres of other Aniston films.

Rounding out the top 10 were "Inception" with $7.7 million in ninth, and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," which slipped 53 percent from its poor premiere a week ago, grossing $5 million.

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