Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- “Underworld: Awakening,” the fourth film in the vampire-versus-werewolf series, was the top movie in U.S. and Canadian theaters this past weekend, taking in $25.4 million for Sony Corp.
“Red Tails,” the story of black U.S. fighter pilots who challenged racial barriers during World War II, was second with $19.1 million for News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
“Underworld Awakening” is the first 3-D installment in the R-rated franchise about a centuries-old conflict between vampires and werewolves. The three previous films generated $298.4 million worldwide for Sony, according to the film website Box Office Mojo.
“‘Underworld’ came in just as I had expected, but the big story is ‘Red Tails’ over-performing in the No. 2 spot,” said Gitesh Pandya, editor of Boxofficeguru.com in New York. “A film about the Tuskegee airmen came out just at the right time for the African-American audience, in between Martin Luther King weekend and the start of Black History Month.”
“Red Tails” follows the training and deployment of the first U.S. fighter squadron staffed by black pilots at Tuskegee, Alabama. The film, executive produced by George Lucas, chronicles the barriers they overcame in a then-segregated U.S. Army Air Corps and their success in battling Germany’s Luftwaffe. The film stars Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr.
In the latest “Underworld,” Kate Beckinsale returns in the role of the vampire warrior Selene to resist efforts by humans and werewolves to eradicate the vampire population. Stephen Rea and Michael Ealy co-star.
“Contraband,” last week’s top film, fell to third with $12.2 million, Hollywood.com said. The movie, starring Mark Wahlberg as a former smuggler who is forced to take one last job, is from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures and co-stars Beckinsale.
The success of “Red Tails” and “Contraband” in January is unusual, said Pandya, because movie studios typically wait to release action movies until after the National Football League playoffs and the Super Bowl.
“So far, the action movies have been working well,” he said. “We’re seeing that the action audience has room for both movies and football.”
Also opening in wide release this past weekend was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” from Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures, which collected $10.5 million in sales to finish in fourth place.
A young boy in the film searches New York City for a message left by his father, a victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. The picture stars Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Thomas Horn.
The thriller “Haywire” debuted with $9 million, good for fifth place. The film from Relativity Media LLC, starring Michael Douglas and Channing Tatum, is about a government security operative who is double-crossed during a mission. She must evade an international search and protect her family.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 26 percent to $111.7 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Revenue in 2012 has risen 15 percent and attendance is up 16 percent from a year earlier. The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Jan. 20 and Jan. 21 and estimates for yesterday.
--Editors: Rob Golum, Sylvia Wier
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