Despite an advertising blitz designed to make it a Twilight for boys, I Am Number Four was No. 2 at the box office this weekend, falling to Liam Neeson's lower-profile crime thriller.
Neeson's Unknown was No. 1 with $21.8 million, and I Am Number Four took second with $19.5 million, according to studio estimates from Hollywood.com. Unknown beat most projections by $3 million; Four fell short of analysts' expectations by about the same amount.
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Produced by Michael Bay and directed by teen-action helmsman D.J. Caruso, Four is about an alien (Alex Pettyfer) who blends into a high school population in an attempt to evade other, evil aliens. It marks Hollywood's latest attempt to create a fantasy franchise like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter— namely, a series boys will see.
But youth-oriented action has faltered lately, particularly among young superheroes. Films such as Kick-Ass and Scott PilgrimVersus the World crashed at the box office.
And while Four's story establishes plot lines for sequels, analysts doubt Disney will get a chance to tell them.
Brandon Gray of Box Office Mojo says that by the first day of ticket sales, when Number Four took in $6.2 million Friday, the film had seen "its franchise hopes flicker out."
"Despite a flood of advertising prior to release, (Number Four's) first day was significantly worse than Jumper (8.7 million in 2008) and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief ($9.6 million last year)," Gray says. "And neither spawned sequels."
Neeson, on the other hand, flourishes when having things taken from him. In the smash Taken, it was his daughter. In Unknown, which opened Friday, it is his identity.
Neeson plays an American scientist visiting Berlin who recovers from a car accident to find that his life, as he knows it, has disappeared.
The actor has become Hollywood's understated action hero, and his $30 million thriller surprised analysts with its performance at the box office.
Warner Bros. "has been marketing Unknown as if it were another helping of Taken, as if it were another adventure for the same character, like with the Jason Bourne series," says Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru. "That's probably the best way to go to maximize box office."
The animated comedy Gnomeo & Juliet held well, dropping just 23% from its debut to earn $19.4 million. That lifted its total to $50.4 million.
The comedy Just Go with It was fourth with $18.2 million, followed by Martin Lawrence's Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son with $17 million.
Final figures are due Tuesday, after the Presidents Day holiday.
Courtesy of USA Today