“The Covenant,” a tale of supernatural teens trying to destroy each other at an elite boarding school, ascended to the top of the weekend box office with a modest take of $9 million, according to studio estimates.
It was Sony Screen Gems’ ninth top-opener this year, but the lowest box office start for a film making a No. 1 debut since 2003’s “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” made $6.6 million.
By comparison, the debut of Sony Screen Gems’ “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” took in more than $30 million in the same weekend a year ago.
“The summer (movie) season ended on a pretty high note, but the fall season is starting off a little slow,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. “I don’t think anyone expected this weekend to set the world on fire in terms of box office.”
Meanwhile, moviegoers on Friday pushed the year’s biggest hit, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” past the $1 billion box office threshold — only the third film to do so behind “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.”
After 10 weeks in theaters, the Johnny Depp sequel has grossed $416.6 million in the U.S. plus $587.5 million internationally.
“The Covenant” opened in 2,681 theaters, drawing a screen average of $3,357 and knocking off the previous No. 1 movie, Disney’s football drama “Invincible.” The Mark Wahlberg flick dropped to third place with $5.8 million.
While “The Covenant” ruled among teen moviegoers, older audiences helped “Hollywoodland” grab the No. 2 spot with its $6 million debut.
It opened in just 1,548 cinemas but posted a per-theater average of $3,881 that was the highest among the top 10 movies.
The third film to crack the top 10 in its debut this weekend was “The Protector,” a Weinstein Co. release that landed in the No. 4 spot with $5 million. “Crank,” Lionsgate’s action tale starring Jason Statham as a hit man, dropped from No. 2 to No. 5 with $4.8 million.
Yari Film Group’s “The Illusionist,” a drama set in 1900s Vienna and starring Edward Norton as a mysterious magician, continued to expand in its fourth week in theaters, taking in $4.6 million and the No. 6 spot.
Like “Hollywoodland” and Fox Searchlight’s “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Illusionist” is an example of how films from smaller or independent-minded studios are finding audiences after a summer of blockbusters.
“Little Miss Sunshine,” starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell, dropped three notches to No. 7 this weekend with $4.4 million. Playing in 1,560 locations, the road-trip comedy averaged $2,837 per theater.