LOS ANGELES - Despite the arrival of four new films in theaters this weekend, moviegoers weren't interested in heading to the box office.
For the fourth consecutive weekend, ticket sales were down compared with the same period in 2011, as none of the fresh arrivals at the cinema was able to top $15 million. Two spots tied for No. 1: the Jake Gyllenhaal cop drama "End of Watch" and the Jennifer Lawrence horror vehicle "House at the End of the Street," which each raked in a decent $13 million a piece. Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood's new baseball drama, "Trouble With the Curve," didn't hit a home run with audiences, as the film collected a so-so $12.7 million.
The big weekend loser, however, was "Dredd 3D," the science-fiction action film based on a British comic strip that was only able to muster up $6.3 million in sales. The film barely performed better than "The Master," Paul Thomas Anderson's drama that played this weekend in only 788 theaters, while "Dredd" screened in roughly 2,500 locations. After debuting with record-breaking numbers in only five cinemas last weekend, the film about a Scientology-esque cult leader took in an impressive $5 million upon its nationwide expansion.
Still, business overall was slow, and receipts dropped 25 percent this weekend when stacked up with the same three-day period last year.
"End of Watch" received the most positive critical reviews of any of the weekend's new wide releases, and audiences liked it best as well. Those who saw the film assigned it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. (Eastwood's "Curve" received a B-plus grade, while both "Dredd 3D" and "House at the End of the Street" each earned a B.)
The film stars Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as Los Angeles Police Department officers who form a close bond as they work the streets of South-Central L.A. together. The film was financed by Emmett/Furla Films and Exclusive Media, but Open Road Films acquired North American distribution rights for about $2 million.
The movie is the latest of Gyllenhaal's low- to-mid-budget films to perform modestly at the domestic box office. Last year, the 31-year-old's sci-fi thriller "Source Code" grossed a decent $54.7 million at the U.S. box office, but his romantic drama "Love and Other Drugs" took in a more disappointing $32.4 million in 2010.
"House at the End of the Street" is the first film Jennifer Lawrence has appeared in since the release of the blockbuster "The Hunger Games" in March. The actress, who rose to fame after her Oscar-nominated turn in 2010's "Winter's Bone," recently began generating awards buzz again after her upcoming dramedy "Silver Linings Playbook" debuted to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival this month.
However, the 22-year-old won't experience that same level of success with "House at the End of the Street," in which she stars as a girl who moves to an eerie new neighborhood with her mother. The film was expected to debut with about $18 million, but couldn't rake in enough young females to defeat "End of Watch." ("House" appealed to a 61 percent female crowd, and 70 percent of the audience was under the age of 25.)
The movie, produced by FilmNation Entertainment and A Bigger Boat for $10 million, was acquired by Relativity Media last year for about $2.5 million. The film is the studio's first release since April, when its Edgar Allan Poe thriller "The Raven" tanked in theaters.
"Trouble With the Curve" is the first movie that 82-year-old Eastwood has acted in - but not directed - in nearly two decades. In his new movie, the actor plays a baseball scout who must work on his troubled relationship with his daughter (Amy Adams) when he starts losing his vision.
Eastwood's latest movie will need to benefit from strong word-of-mouth if it is to become a hit - something the actor-director hasn't seen in a few years. Both of his most recent directorial efforts, last year's "J. Edgar" and the 2010 tsunami drama "Hereafter," underwhelmed at the box office with under $40 million in sales. Four years ago, his role as a grumpy old man in "Gran Torino" resonated with audiences and took in an impressive $148.1 million. His latest curmudgeonly turn will not replicate that feat.