V for Vendetta...and victory.
The Wachowski brothers' adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's classic graphic novel about rebellion against a fascist regime pulled in $25.6 million to handily win the weekend box office.
Written and produced by Matrix masterminds Andy and Larry Wachowski, directed by James McTeigue and starring a shorn Natalie Portman opposite a Guy Fawkes-masked Hugo Weaving, the R-rated Warner Bros. release averaged $7,620 at 3,365 theaters, about what the studio was predicting for the first top-tier film of 2006.
Warners reported that the film pulled in an additional $8.5 million internationally, including $2.1 million in the U.K.
Domestically, V for Vendetta seemed to draw its target audience of fanboys, despite being disowned by the iconoclastic Moore, who successfully sued to have his name removed from promotional materials, claiming the script deviated too much from his original vision.
The only new film in wide release was She's the Man, which debuted in fourth place with $10.7 million. Loosely--and we mean loosely--adapted from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, with Amanda Bynes as a girl who pretends to a boy, averaged $4,091 per screen at 2,623 sites, about what distributor Paramount was expecting, a studio rep said.
Last week's top movie, the romantic comedy Failure to Launch, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughy, stayed afloat, only dropping 36 percent to second place with $15.6 million. That brings the PG-13 Paramount flick's take to a solid $48.3 million.
Last week's runner-up, The Shaggy Dog, had even less of a drop, falling just 16 percent from its opening with $13.4 million in third place. Disney's PG remake, starring Tim Allen as a man who literally gets dogged, has now wolfed up $35.6 million in 10 days.
In limited release, Thank You for Smoking smoked all comers. Fox Searchlight's R-rated satire, starring Aaron Eckhart as an ace tobacco company lobbyist (and an all-star supporting cast that includes Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe and Robert Duvall), lit up cash registers by averaging a whopping $52,585 at just five locations in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., for a total of $262,923. Following what the distributor termed a "fantastic" opening, Smoking will expand to seven more cities next weekend before going into nationwide release Apr. 7.
The rest of the art-house entries don't even warrant a surgeon general warning. Wim Wenders' latest angst drama, Don't Come Knocking, starring real-life couple Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard, averaged $5,105 at six sites for $30,630; Steve Harvey's comedy Don't Trip...He Ain't Through with Me Yet averaged $3,054 at 60 sites for $164,926; the Italian import Don't Tell averaged $2,761 at five sites for $13,805; and Find Me Guilty, a Sidney Lumet crime drama starring a wigged-out Vin Diesel, averaged $1,387 at 439 sites for $608,804.
Overall the top 12 films grossed $92.7 million, less than 1 percent lower than last week, but still a substantial 12 percent down from this time last year, when the horror flick The Ring Two was scaring up big bucks.
Here's a recap of the top movies, based on final studio figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. V for Vendetta, $25.6 million
2. Failure to Launch, $15.6 million
3. The Shaggy Dog, $13.4 million
4. She's the Man, $10.7 million
5. The Hills Have Eyes, $8 million
6. 16 Blocks, $4.8 million
7. Eight Below, $4.1 million
8. Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, $2.9 million
9. The Pink Panther, $2.5 million
10. Aquamarine, $2.1 million
(Originally published Mar. 19, 2006 at 4:15 p.m. PT.)