New York - The more adult-oriented fall movie-going season got off to a strong start over the weekend, as the Hugh Jackman kidnapping drama Prisoners opened with a box office-leading $21.4m, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Warner Bros thriller, which also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, is among the first fall films with Oscar aspirations to open in theatres. It was a strong debut for a serious, R-rated drama that cost about $46m to make.
Following the robust business for Lee Daniels' The Butler (now up to $106.5m in six weeks for the Weinstein Co), the large audiences turning out for adult fare bodes well for Hollywood's coming awards season.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the nearly 2 ½ hour-long Prisoners is about the working-class families of two young girls who are abducted. In a story heavy with allegory, Jackman plays a father willing to cross moral lines for justice. Gyllenhaal stars as the small-town police detective trying to navigate the case.
'We're just seeing a change'
Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros, said the audience was 74% under the age of 50. The film, he noted, was launched "very similarly" to Warner Bros' October-released Argo, which, like Prisoners, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and then the Toronto International Film Festival.
In limited release, two other adult-oriented films opened well. Ron Howard's Formula One tale Rush opened with a $40 000 per-theatre average in five theatres. And the romantic comedy Enough Said, which co-stars James Gandolfini in one of his final performances, took in a per-screen average of $60 000, opening in four theatres. Both films expand next week.
Prisoners, Rush and Enough Said have all received good reviews.
"A few years ago, people were saying that the adult drama is dead," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "We're just seeing a change. Now we're finding that intersection between good movies that are also generating big box office."
Last week's top film, Insidious: Chapter 2, slid to second place for FilmDistrict. The horror film made $14.5m in its second weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. It has made $60.9m in two weeks domestically.
The Chris Brown dance film Battle of the Year opened poorly for Sony Pictures' Screen Gems, taking in only $5m.
Warner Bros' 3D conversion of The Wizard of Oz made $3m, opening on 318 IMAX screens.
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