With the superior fire power of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, the Western "3:10 to Yuma" was the big shot at the weekend box office in North America, according to studio estimates issued Sunday.
"Yuma," a remake of a 1957 Western about a struggling rancher's bid to bring an outlaw to justice, sold $14.1 million worth of tickets in its first three days, said the film's distributor, Lionsgate.
The studio said it hoped for an opening above $10.0 million, and noted that the film's main demographic, male moviegoers over the age of 25, does not traditionally rush out to see a movie in its first weekend. This augurs well for its performance in coming weekends, Lionsgate said.
Last weekend's champion, the horror remake "Halloween," slipped to No. 2 with $10 million, taking its 10-day haul to $44.2 million. The Weinstein production was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
The only other new release in the top 10 was the cartoonish action movie "Shoot 'Em Up," starring Clive Owen as an athletic hitman with a penchant for carrots. The New Line Cinema release opened at No. 6 with a disappointing $5.45 million. The studio had hoped for a start closer to $10 million.
Overall sales fell, as is traditionally the case the first weekend following the U.S. Labor Day holiday weekend, the official end of the lucrative summer moviegoing season.
According to tracking firm Media By Numbers, the top 12 films earned $66.1 million, down from $97.1 million last weekend, but up from $54 million a year ago.
Over the next few weekends, the studios will dump stale leftovers, and start rolling out "prestige" pictures hoping for awards-season recognition.
"3:10 to Yuma" falls in the latter category, according to Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment, which said it was planning "a very aggressive" campaign in the long run to the Academy Awards Feb. 24. Critics overwhelmingly praised the film, which was directed by James Mangold ("Walk the Line").
Crowe, who plays vicious outlaw Ben Wade, has spent the last few years in the wilderness, following the disappointing performance of the 2005 drama "Cinderella Man," which was also viewed as Oscar bait. The boxing drama opened to $18.3 million, which was distinctly better than the $3.7 million start for his romantic comedy "A Good Year" the following year.
Bale, playing the one-legged rancher Dan Evans, is more of an art-house mainstay with such recent pictures as "The Prestige" and "Rescue Dawn." He is best known for his role as the Caped Crusader in "Batman Returns," which in 2005 opened to $49 million.
Rounding out the top five, each down one place from last weekend, were the teen comedy "Superbad" at No. 3 with $8.0 million, the sports parody "Balls of Fury" at No. 4 with $5.7 million, and the spy thriller "The Bourne Ultimatum" with $5.48 million.
"Superbad" (Columbia Pictures) has earned $103.7 million after three weeks; "Balls of Fury (Rogue Pictures), $24.3 million after two weeks; and "The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal Pictures), $210.1 million after six weeks.
Columbia is a unit of Sony . Rogue Pictures and Universal Pictures are units of General Electric's NBC Universal. (CNBC and CNBC.com are also divisions of NBC Universal.) New Line Cinema is a unit of Time Warner .