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'Prisoners' Tops Box Office With $21.4 Million

By Jake Coyle

NEW YORK -- The more adult-oriented fall moviegoing season got off to a strong start over the weekend, as the Hugh Jackman kidnapping drama Prisoners opened with a box office-leading $21.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Warner Bros. (TWX - Get Report) thriller, which also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, is among the first fall films with Oscar aspirations to open in theaters. It was a strong debut for a serious, R-rated drama that cost about $30 million to make.

Following the robust business for Lee Daniels' The Butler (now up to $106.5 million in six weeks for the Weinstein Co.), the large audiences turning out for adult fare bodes well for Hollywood's coming awards season.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the nearly 2½-hour-long Prisoners is about the working-class families of two young girls who are abducted. In a story heavy with allegory, Jackman plays a father willing to cross moral lines for justice. Gyllenhaal stars as the small-town police detective trying to navigate the case.

Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., said the audience was 74% under the age of 50. The film, he noted, was launched "very similarly" to Warner Bros.'s October-released Argo, which, like Prisoners, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and then the Toronto International Film Festival.

In limited release, two other adult-oriented films opened well. Ron Howard's Formula One tale Rush opened with a $40,000 per-theater average in five theaters. And the romantic comedy Enough Said, which co-stars James Gandolfini in one of his final performances, took in a per-screen average of $60,000, opening in four theaters. Both films expand next week.

Prisoners, Rush and Enough Said have all received good reviews.

"A few years ago, people were saying that the adult drama is dead," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "We're just seeing a change. Now we're finding that intersection between good movies that are also generating big box office."

Last week's top film, Insidious: Chapter 2, slid to second place for FilmDistrict. The horror film made $14.5 million in its second weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. It has made $60.9 million in two weeks domestically.

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