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Your Box Office Explained: While Salt Couldn't Top Inception, Angelina Jolie's Still an Action Star

THE WEEKEND'S WINNERS: Warner Bros.'s Inception; Sony’s Salt.



THE WEEKEND'S LOSERS: Disney synergy.



HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN: Thanks to moviegoers’s determination to go back to Inception as many times as it took to figure out just what the hell happened, attendance at Christopher Nolan’s film fell by less than a third in its second weekend; that’s about half of the typical drop for a big blockbuster. It was good enough to top the box office for the second week in a row, taking in an estimated $43.5 million (for a total of $143.6 million), besting the nearly $37 million taken in by Salt in its first weekend.

Though it couldn’t overtake Inception, Salt was still a success. For months, Sony had been trying to build up the film as that rarest of Hollywood commodities: an action flick anchored by a woman that still appeals to guys. To ensure that dudes showed up, Columbia launched an ambitious online game campaign, www.dayXexists.com, back in May. Dudes love video games! But whether Sony had succeeded in attracting men was still an open question even 24 hours before the film opened: On Thursday, 45% of young women (those under 25) polled expressed “definite interest” in seeing the film, compared with just 35% of older men (those over 25), according to a confidential tracking report shared by a studio exec.



(Perhaps this differential was party attributable to Howard Stern acolytes being dissuaded by the tweets of Robin Quivers. She spent the last week sending anti-Salt messages in a fit of feminist — or is it anti-antifeminist? — pique: “Aren't we tired of women pretending to be men?” “We haven't seen a powerful female on screen since Kathleen Turner in Body Heat.” “Hey Angie, wouldn't it be more exciting and dangerous to be Mati Hari (sic) than Tom Cruise?” and ‘Why is Angelina Jolie playing like a boy when she of all people knows how to weild (sic) the power of a woman?”)



In the end, though, both women and men found Salt savory: 47% of the film’s crowds were male; 53% female.



Meanwhile, Fox, which had been suffering its worst summer of recent memory with dogs like Marmaduke, The A-Team and Knight and Day, finally had something to cheer about...kind of. Ramona and Beezus, based on the beloved Beverly Cleary chestnut, opened with $8 million. While it's not that impressive on the surface, the film cost only $15 million to make — probably less than what Sony spent on diet Snapple for Angelina Jolie's nannies — so it's on the way to making money; hey, a win's a win! We have to ask, though why Disney Channel starlet Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) had to make her first theatrical feature film for Fox instead of Disney when she is such a potent draw for ‘tween girls: 75% of those who showed up to Beezus were female; 57% were under the age of 25.

Photo: Columbia Pictures