August 13, 2006

Oliver Stone’s 9/11 film ranks 3rd at box office

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Most U.S. moviegoers opted for
comedy and dance after a week dominated by news of thwarted
terror plots and Middle East bloodshed but "World Trade
Center," Oliver Stone's new film about the September 11
attacks, managed a No. 3 finish at the box office.

Arriving in theaters just ahead of the fifth anniversary of
the deadliest attacks ever on U.S. soil, Hollywood's first
big-budget film about the 9/11 calamity in New York has grossed
$26.8 million since opening last Wednesday, according to studio
estimates issued on Sunday.

The better-than-expected tally included $19 million in
weekend tickets sales alone, landing "World Trade Center" in
third place at the North American box office for the
Friday-through-Sunday period.

Will Ferrell's race car comedy "Talladega Nights: The
Ballad of Ricky Bobby," from Sony Pictures Entertainment,
returned to the top of the box office with $23 million in its
second weekend, raising its cumulative total to $91.2 million.
The Walt Disney Co.'s new dance film "Step Up" opened at No. 2
with ticket sales of $21.1 million.

The Stone-directed "World Trade Center" stars Oscar-winner
Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena, who played the locksmith in
"Crash," as two Port Authority policemen buried alive in the
rubble of the World Trade Center after hijackers crashed
airliners into the Twin Towers the morning of September 11,

The $65 million film, released by Viacom Inc.-owned
Paramount Pictures, has received mostly favorable reviews, as
did the low-budget 9/11 movie "United 93," which came out in
April and went on to gross $31.5 million.

Industry experts said both films, while hardly blockbusters
by Hollywood standards, had to be seen as commercial successes
given the nature of their subject matter.

"This shows that five years on, this story is ready to be
told on the big screen," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of
box office tracking service Exhibitor Relations Co.

But with headlines in recent days about the Lebanese
conflict and authorities thwarting an international plot to
blow up commercial jetliners over the Atlantic, most moviegoers
went for lighter fare like "Talladega Nights" and "Step Up."

Paramount executives said it was hard to tell whether
recent news about the plot to blow up airliners frightened
moviegoers away from "World Trade Center" or heightened
interest in the movie.

But studio distribution head Jim Tharp said exit polls
showed the film benefited from positive word-of-mouth -- 91
percent of viewers rated it "excellent" or "very good" and more
than 80 percent said they would recommend it to others.

The PG-13 film also drew a decidedly older-skewing crowd,
with 65 percent of its audience over the age of 25, he said.

Last week's No. 2 film, Paramount's computer-animated
feature "Barnyard," slipped to fourth place in its second
weekend with a three-day gross of $10.1 million.

The biggest movie of the year so far, Disney's "Pirates of
the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," fell from third place to No.
6 with $7.2 million, taking its six-week haul to $392.4
million. Disney put its worldwide total so far, including
domestic business, at $855 million.

The No. 5 spot in North America this weekend went to the
Weinstein Co.'s horror flick "Pulse," which opened with $8.5
million, while the only other new wide-release movie, Sony's
superhero spoof "Zoom," starring Tim Allen, landed at No. 7
with a disappointing tally of $4.6 million.