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Aptly, a horror movie led them all.

In a pretty scary box-office weekend for Hollywood, the poltergeist-populated The Messengers came away with the top spot, scaring up $14.7 million, ticket tracker Exhibitor Relations said Monday.

Overall, the combined haul from the nation's top 12 movies was down more than 20 percent from last weekend, which wasn't so hot, either. When compared to the same weekend last year, the box office was down over 13 percent.

The Messengers is the lowest grossing number one movie since last September, when The Gridiron Gang muscled its way past the after-summer competition with $14.4 million, per stats at Box Office Mojo.

Traditionally, Super Bowl weekend is about as tough a time for Hollywood as the weeks leading into and out of Labor Day.

The Messengers, with a low-wattage cast led by Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller, was one of only two new major releases. The other, the comedy Because I Said So, featured bigger stars (chiefly, Diane Keaton), but not better drawing power. It grossed $13.1 million, which this time out was good enough for second place.

The clock ran out on last weekend's champ, Epic Movie (third place, $8.4 million; $29.6 million overall), which saw its ticket sales free-fall 55 percent.

Smokin' Aces (fifth place, $6.1 million; $24.7 million overall) showed even less staying power in its second weekend, with the Ben Affleck hit-man movie down 58 percent.

On the bright side for the Affleck family, at least Smokin' Aces stayed in the top 10. Wife Jennifer Garner's drama-comedy Catch and Release (11th place, $2.6 million; $11.9 million overall) all but disappeared, down 66 percent.

Like Catch and Release, the horror movie The Hitcher ($1.1 million; $15.5 million overall) saw its top 10 run ended.

In its seventh weekend, the marathon runner that is Night at the Museum (fourth place, $6.4 million) was only down 33 percent. Overall, the Ben Stiller comedy crossed the $225 million benchmark.

Among Oscar contenders, Dreamgirls (seventh place, $4 million; $92.8 million overall) was tops. The Queen (10th place, $2.7 million; $45.5 million overall) was the biggest grossing Best Picture nominee.

On the art-house circuit, Factory Girl, featuring tabloid-fixture Sienna Miller's turn as doomed Andy Warhol protégé Edie Sedgwick, was the standout, making a big $87,477 in only three theaters. Its per-screen average of $29,159 was easily the weekend's highest.

Here's a rundown of the top 10 films based on estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. The Messengers, $14.7 million
2. Because I Said So, $13.1 million
3. Epic Movie, $8.4 million
4. Night at the Museum, $6.4 million
5. Smokin' Aces, $6.1 million
6. Stomp the Yard, $4.1 million
7. Dreamgirls, $4 million
8. Pan's Labyrinth, $3.7 million
9. The Pursuit of Happyness, $3 million
10. The Queen, $2.7 million

 

[Originally published Feb. 4, 2007 at 8:23 p.m. PT.]