'End of Watch' leads anemic weekend at the movies

Despite four new films, including one fromClint Eastwood, Hollywood couldn't pull itself out of the Septemberdoldrums as nearly every movie barely met expectations orunder-performed.

The cop drama End of Watch and the horror film House at the End of the Streettied for first with $13 million each, according to studio estimatesfrom box office tracker Hollywood.com. Final figures will settle the tieMonday.

Of the two, Watch had the better showing, as it played on fewer screens than House. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, Watch metthe lower end of projections despite stellar reviews. About 85% ofcritics liked it, according to survey site Rottentomatoes.com.

Thefilm may have a brighter future than its competition, thanks to fanresponse: According to the site, 92% of fans enjoyed it, a good sign in aslow fall.

House's future may not be so bright. While it tied for first, it earned thumbs-up from just 14% of critics and 59% of fans.

RaySubers of Boxofficemojo.com called the slate of newcomers "middling,"and said none of their performances "were very impressive."

The slowdown began in August and has continued through September, as no breakout hit has invaded theaters since July 20's The Dark Knight Rises.

"The overall box office looks like it has the blahs," says Todd Cunningham of industry website Thewrap.com.

Count among the cinematic shrugs Clint Eastwood's baseball drama Trouble with the Curve,which analysts predicted would win the box office with at least $16million. Instead, the movie did $12.7 million, good for third place. Themovie got a thumbs-up from just 53% of critics and 66% of fans, saysRottentomatoes.com.

But analysts wonderedwhether Eastwood's one-man monologue with an empty chair at theRepublican National Convention turned off some audiences.

"Insert your own 'empty chairs' joke here," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com.

Briody says that debut "isn't a bad opening. But it does feel somewhat surprising that Clint Eastwood's first acting role since Gran Torino (which did $148 million in 2008) wasn't worth more."

Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com says that stars take a chance with their box office any time they become politically vocal.

"GeorgeClooney and Sean Penn probably lose some moviegoers because of theirpolitical position," he says. "It's just a chance you take."

The cartoon re-release Finding Nemo 3D was fourth with $9.5 million, followed by the horror film Resident Evil: Retribution with $6.7 million.

The last major newcomer, Dredd 3D, took sixth with $6.3 million. Analysts were expecting at least $12 million from the sci-fi cop movie.

Theindustry has all but lost its momentum in ticket sales over 2011.Attendance remains up just 1.3% ahead of last year, Hollywood.com says.


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