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Your Box Office Explained: Dolphin Tale Wins the Weekend, But Courageous Does Surprisingly Well

Dolphin Tale Wins the Weekend, Courageous Does Surprisingly Well.

This Weekend’s Winners: Alcon Entertaiment’s Dolphin Tale echo-located a $14.2 million No. 1 spot, losing barely a quarter of its audience in its second weekend, but the real story belongs to the audience whose minivans sport the “Jesus-fish”: Courageous, with a surprising $8.8 million opening, good for fifth place.

This Weekend’s Losers: What’s Your Number? Anna Faris’ was $5.6 million — a number many millions too low to bring good news for Faris (or the recently fired production and marketing chiefs at New Regency) or Fox. Equally vacant was Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz’s Dream House, which at $8.2 million is underwater on its mortgage and likely headed for foreclosure.

How It All Went Down: We'll get to the major studio releases in a moment, but first, a word about the stranger in our midst, Courageous.

Box office is often reported as if it's a horse race, but that’s inherently ridiculous, for the steeds are all running on tracks of varying lengths. For example, take Sony Pictures release Courageous. Its treacle acting aside, the opening of Courageous still requires that attention be paid. Despite playing on nearly two thirds (63 percent!) fewer screens than the weekend’s widest release, What’s Your Number?, it still beat it by $3 million and two spots. You can thank older folks for that: Slightly more than half (53 percent) was female, and three quarters (77 percent) was over age 25. Courageous outperformed studio expectations by 75 percent.

Meanwhile, Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen proved that there’s nothing like terminal illness to keep crowds at bay with Funny People, and Rogen certainly drove the point home with 50/50: The film made less than $9 million despite playing in nearly 2,500 theaters. Older audiences who’re influenced by critics — nearly two thirds (65 percent) were over age 25 — won’t pull the plug, but clearly any Rogen fans expecting high jinks disappeared in a puff of medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, it was easy to see why crowds of every age stayed away from Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz in Dream House: Director Jim Sheridan clashed violently with Morgan Creek financier Jim Robinson, and, well, you see the results onscreen. Even more tense and poignant than the actual movie is Sheridan’s promotional interview with DreadCentral: Never before has a director seemed so anguished and at a loss to say something credibly good about his own film during a press junket.

Finally, what can we say about What's Your Number?This is what's known as failure to launch: It reached only a single quadrant, older females, who made up two thirds of its audience (63 percent), but that's the hardest audience to get into a theater. As a result, Faris finished — and it pains me to even type this — behind the second weekend of Taylor Lautner's Abduction. In The House Bunny, Faris once sagely observed that "eyes are the nipples of the face," but sadly, the young female audience is clearly more interested in abs.

The Top Ten
1. Dolphin Tale $14.2 million
2. Moneyball $12.5 million
3. The Lion King 3D $11.1 million
4. 50/50 $8.86 million
5. Courageous $8.8 million
6. Dream House $8.2 million
7. Abduction $5.65 million
8. What’s Your Number? $5.6 million
9. Contagion $5.04 million
10. Killer Elite $4.8 million

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures