John McCain and Barack Obama should be happy they're not running against a video-game hero.
As expected, Max Payne, the Mark Wahlberg, action/gamer movie, easily won the weekend box office, and, as expected, defeated Oliver Stone's hot-button W., which bowed in fourth place, but met expectations with a $10.6 million debut.
For Payne, the question wasn't whether it would unseat incumbent Beverly Hills Chihuahua, but how high it would go.
In the end, the movie gave surprise Saturday Night Live guest star Wahlberg one of his better openings, more The Italian Job than We Own the Night. Among video-game-inspired movies, it was middling, closer to Doom than Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or even Mortal Kombat.
Among presidential biopics, Stone's W. outdid Stone's Nixon. Lionsgate was looking for the film to break $10 million, and, in a squeaker, it did.
"Political films can be tricky—it's not always a slam dunk," Steve Rothenberg, Liongates' distribution president, said today. "…The trick for our marketing department was to make the movie look entertaining."
You know, like a video game.
Other notes and numbers from the box office:
W. found its largest audience among moviegoers most likely to be critics of George W. Bush. According to Rothenberg, 55 percent of ticketbuyers described themselves as liberals. Moderates made up 31 percent of the film's base, conservatives just 14 percent.
Is it a dog or an Energizer Bunny? Knocked down to No. 2 or no, Beverly Hills Chihuahua ($11.2 million; $69.1 million overall) just keeps going strong and going strong and…
Theater for theater, the old-school prestige drama The Secret Life of Bees ($11.1 million) posted the strongest gross of any Top 10 movie.
Shia LaBeouf's Eagle Eye ($7.3 million) topped $80 million overall, and made back its budget.
Kirk Cameron's Fireproof ($2.7 million) topped $20 million, and cleared its $500,000 budget by 40 times.
Here lies Body of Lies ($6.9 million; $24.5 million overall)…
The new teen comedy Sex Drive ($3.6 million) never got going.
Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla ($131,000 at 22 theaters; $401,000 overall) didn't do any worse, or better, for his split from Madonna.
Robert De Niro's Hollywood satire What Just Happened? ($216,000 at 36 theaters) did better in limited release than De Niro's Righetous Kill did in wide release.
Here's a recap of the top-grossing weekend films based on Friday-Sunday estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations: