30daysofnight_bigteaserposter.jpgSUNDAY AM: It was an R-rated film festival at the box office this weekend. But did moviegoers respond to the new crop of adult-themed pics, many of which have Oscar buzz? Well, mostly no. The exception was Sony’s Halloween-timed 30 Days Of Night which opened with $16 million from 2,855 theaters and logged a modest hit for Sam Raimi’s Ghost House productions. The something-evil-lurks-in-Alaska theme didn’t have to resort to torture porn to scare (though there’s plenty of vampire gore).

But two R-rated newcomers really disappointed at the box office. New Line’s heavy-handed political thriller Rendition starring Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal flatlined into only 9th place, opening to $4 million from 2,362 runs. This flop shows again that message movies aren’t resonating with audiences this year. Not even making it into the Top 10 was DreamWorks / Paramount’s drug addiction drama Things We Lost In The Fire despite starring Oscar-winners Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro. Good thing it cost only $16 mil and had a very modest ad campaign. In 15th place, the pic made just $1.6 million from a limited run of 1,142 venues with a lousy per screen average.  “I think there were just too many R-rated dramas in the marketplace,” a DreamWorks source told me. “I think all suffered because of it.”

gonebabygone_bigposter.jpgMiramax’s Gone Baby Gone fared better. Hollywood was especially curious to see how the R-rated crime drama directed by Ben Affleck would fare since he’s had a tough time as an actor at the box office in recent years. But the film got great reviews, and audiences made it the #6 movie with $5.6 million this weekend from 1,713 theaters.

Little wonder that, with all these serious and even downer films at the megaplex, audiences wanted lighter fare. Lionsgate’s PG-13 holdover Why Did I get Married from the fertile mind of Tyler Perry was the 2nd place movie down only 43%. It earned $12.2 million this weekend in 2,034 venues with a new cume is $38.9 mil. And the 3rd spot went to Disney’s family fare The Game Plan which, even starting its 4th weekend in release, took in $8.1 million from 3,301 dates, down only 26.4%. The Rock’s new cume is $69.2 mil. Still another holdover, Warner’s well reviewed Michael Clayton starring George Clooney hung in (only down -34%) for No. 4, making $6.8 mil from 2,585 plays. But its cume is still an anemic $21.6 mil. Fox Atomic’s PG-13 sports spoof The Comebacks was the surprise 5th place movie, showing that audiences are starved for even a medocre comedy even if it’ll play better on DVD. This inexpensive pic opened with $6 mil from 2,812 runs.

thingswelostinthefire_galleryposter.jpgFor the 7th spot, Sony’s $11 mil Cannes pickup of Mark Cuban’s 2929 Productions’ We Own The Night dropped 49% from its opening to eke out $5.5 mil from 2,362 dates for a new cume of $19.7 mil. In 8th place, Disney re-release of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D squeezed out another $5.1 mil from just 564 venues. In 69% of the theaters it played in it was either the #1 or #2 gtrossing film. But the studio also offered a sneak preview of its offbeat comedy Dan In Real Life with Steve Carell which opens this coming Friday. In 10th place, DreamWorks / Paramount’s disappointing The Heartbreak Kid eked out another $3.9 mil from 2,782 runs for a new cume of $32.1 mil starting its 3rd weekend in release.

As for other newcomers, Freestyle’s Sarah Landon And The Paranormal Hour made $500K from 1,115 dates. And Rocky Mountain’s The Ten Commandments earned $475K from 830 plays.