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Weekend Box Office: Audiences force catchphrase out of Battleship

From the comments section on the Battleship review last week: “Does anyone say ‘You sunk my battleship?’” “Yes. Peter Berg says it to Joss Whedon on Monday.” As it happens, that was a joke too good not to serve as a premonition. Proving that yes, in fact, you can go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, Berg’s $200-million-plus spectacle, based on the Hasbro strategy game (though liberties were taken), was a colossal failure in its opening weekend, earning $25.3 million, less than half of Whedon’s The Avengers did on its third week. So why did a moviegoing public that’s made each Transformers movie more successful than the last turn its back on another militaristic Hasbro product about humanity fighting off metallic alien creatures? And what will this mean for Chutes And Ladders, Tim Robbins’ stunning indictment of the arbitrary and tenuous nature of upward mobility in America? (We’re genuinely afraid, frankly, of what this means for Taylor Kitsch’s career after appearing front and center in this and John Carter, the year’s two most expensive flops. Then again, blaming Riggins would be akin to crediting Sam Worthington for making hits out of Avatar and Terminator: Salvation. Some movies transcend their stars.)

There was more bad news to go around to the other new releases, but at least the stakes were considerably lower. The Dictator suggested diminishing returns for Sacha Baron Cohen’s wacky provocations, with $17.4 million over the weekend—even the $24.4 million earned since its opening on Wednesday didn’t equal the totals brought in by Borat ($26.5 million) and Bruno ($30.6) in their first weekends. And though we had it pegged as the summer’s most anticipated entertainment, What To Expect When You’re Expecting proved that a romantic comedy on fertility drugs only produces a litter of undesired subplots. At $10.5 million, perhaps this signals the beginning of the end of the Love Actually-ization of the genre. Meanwhile, The Best Exotic Marigold hotel just keeps creeping up the charts, collecting another $9,181 per screen (on 354 screens) in its third week for a $3.25 million sixth-place finish.

In limited release, virtually everything struggled. Hysteria, a period piece about the creation of the vibrator, enjoyed a little stimulation (sorry, I truly am) with $8,160 per screen, but not even the critically acclaimed likes of Polisse ($5,900 per screen) or Elena ($6,400 per screen) could find the proverbial box-office G-spot (again, apologies for that). Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez couldn’t turn Lovely Molly ($3,000 per screen) into a low-budget horror sensation and Virginia, a murky drama written and directed by Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, followed its poor Toronto Film Festival reception with a disastrous $6,300 debut on five screens (!), despite lead performances by Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris.

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.

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