Ben Affleck's 'The Town' Surprises For #1; 'Easy A' #2, 'Devil' #3, 'Alpha & Omega' #5

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: Actor/director Ben Affleck’s Warner Bros crime thriller is overperforming at the North American box office. Extrapolating from Friday’s $8.3M grosses and Saturday’s $9.5M (+13%), it easily finished No. 1 this opening weekend when it was only predicted to come in 2nd. It received a “B+” CinemaScore. (Males 55% rated it A-, and those under 18 rated it A+.) The Town‘s opening gross has moved WB into the #1 market share for 2010 “and we will retain that crown for the third year in a row,” a studio exec boasts to me. The R-rated movie’s $23.8M was still well shy of the $28.6M of the same studio’s October 6, 2006, Boston crime thriller The Departed directed by Martin Scorsese. That “R”-rated film starred Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon and went on to win Best Picture Oscar. Affleck’s The Town is also in the running and stars Affleck, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men). Warner Bros even marketed it as The Departed 2. The studio, which financed The Town 50/50 with Legendary Pictures, paired its first trailer with Inception.

For his 2nd big directing effort after Gone Baby Gone also based on a book (Chuck Hogan’s Prince Of Thieves), Affleck promoted the heck out of it. He called movie journalists personally in Hollywood, NYC, flyover country, and eventually this month’s Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. Even so, at the start of this week, expectations were for The Town to open in only second place to a teen movie — and trail by a large margin. But the tracking spiked as the big TV ad campaign kicked it up a notch in the last few days. So Warner Bros distribution czar Dan Fellman pushed up the print count. I think Hollywood underestimated The Town‘s great buzz among starving adult audiences but also its coolness quotient for ages 18-to-25. Trust me, Affleck’s career trajectory rarely happens in Hollywood: from Oscar-winning co-writer to tabloid heartthrob to washed-up star after Gigli to budding director to hot actor/helmer with the #1 movie. What an Industry!

Hollywood thought Sony’s Easy A and Universal’s Devil, would each make around $20M because they’re PG-13 pics, surpassing The Town. Nope. Easy A from Screen Gems is a cut above content-wise  according to critics and had an “A-” CinemaScore. But it was marketed like yet another lame high school angstfest. Still, the pic’s grosses of $18.2M more than doubled the film’s $8M production cost in the first 3 days of release. Devil is the first in M Night Shyamalan’s financing deal with Media Rights Capital under The Night Chronicles production banner, formed to generate genre films he doesn’t have to helm. Distributor Universal acquired worldwide rights to Devil from MRC for $27 million and had high hopes. But with only $12.6M, “the film came in on the low side of expectations,” the studio said matter-of-factly Sunday. But given moviegoers’ loss of faith in Shyamalan after so many of his recent movies have tanked, Devil‘s really lousy trailer, and its laughable premise of Satan-in-an-elevator that earned it only a “C+” CinemaScore — and little surprise it underperformed. The film also debuted in 7 international markets for an estimated $2.3M.

The toon Alpha & Omega, a Lionsgate co-production with Crest Animation for a $20M budget, earned a “B” CinemaScore. It was targeted to young children, as opposed to the bigger broadbased audiences of Toy Story 3, Shrek, Despicable Me, etc. That limits grosses. When early research indicated that the movie would play much stronger with Moms and young daughters, Lionsgate really targeted its modest marketing money to daytime TV and mommy blogs. “It’s fair to say that if you don’t have kids, you might have missed the campaign,” one exec tells me.

Here’s the Top 10:

1. The Town (Warner Bros) NEW [2,861 Theaters]
Friday $8.3M, Saturday $9.5M, Weekend $23.8M

2. Easy A (Screen Gems/Sony) NEW [2,856 Theaters]
Friday $6.7M, Saturday $7.1M, Weekend $18.2M

3. Devil (Universal) NEW [2,809 Theaters]
Friday $4.9M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $12.6M

4. Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 2 [3,209 Theaters]
Friday $3M, Saturday $4.3M, Weekend $10.1M, Cume $43.9M

5. Alpha & Omega (Lionsgate) NEW [2,625 Theaters]
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $4.1M, Weekend $9.2M

6. Takers (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 3 []
Friday $930K, Saturday $1.4M, Weekend $3M, Cume $52.3M

7. The American (Focus Features) Week 3 [2,457 Theaters]
Friday $835K, Saturday $1.2M, Weekend $2.7M, Cume $32.8M

8. The Other Guys (Sony) Week 7 [1,827 Theaters]
Friday $590K, Saturday $930K, Weekend $2M, Cume $115.4M

9. Inception (Warner Bros) Week 10 [1,305 Theaters]
Friday $595K, Saturday $930K, Weekend $2M, Cume $285.1M

10. Eat Pray Love (Sony) Week 6 [1,668 Theaters]
Friday $520K, Saturday $700K, Weekend $1.7, Cume $77.6M

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