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Weekend Box Office: Days Of Blunder

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Since his couch-jumping PR implosion a few years ago, the buzzards have been circling Tom Cruise’s career, but they hadn’t yet dove and struck: The anemic Lions For Lambs bombed, but its failure could hardly be placed on Cruise’s head. The controversy over his Hitler assassination thriller Valkyrie—and that rather ridiculous eyepatch—was quelled by its surprisingly robust worldwide box office. And his turn as a bilious studio executive in Tropic Thunder was well-received enough for him to develop an ill-advised spinoff movie for the character. But Knight And Day, a Cruise summer vehicle of traditional vintage, tanked big time over the weekend, raising fresh doubts about the 47-year-old’s viability as a bankable superstar. Opening in third with $20.5 million ($27.8 million, counting Wednesday and Thursday grosses), the film enjoyed what Box Office Mojo claims was the weakest attendance of any Cruise headliner since 1992’s Far And Away—and on twice as many screens, to boot. It’s possible (likely, really) that prospective viewers were turned off more by the movie than the man, but even in that case, Cruise’s generally unimpeachable instincts for finding hit projects have failed him here.

The news was better for Adam Sandler and his buddies, who lifted the ensemble comedy Grown Ups to a healthy $41 million opening weekend, good enough for second place. In terms of box office and attendance, it was middle-of-the-road for Sandler and company, but in terms of amount of effort exerted per public dollar, it’s the year’s most inspiring success story. But neither of the openers could pose much of a challenge to Toy Story 3, which added another $59 million to a domestic gross that exceeds $225 million in just two weeks.

In limited release, the stunning Afghanistan combat documentary Restrepo took $15,000 per screen on two screens while the less-than-revelatory Oliver Stone political travelogue South Of The Border scored $21,000 on one. The news wasn’t quite as good for the acclaimed Alain Resnais film Wild Grass, which took $7,100 per screen on five screens, and Yorgos Lanthimo’s Dogtooth, which made just $3,750 per screen on two screens, despite being totally awesome.