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''Vantage Point'' peaks at No. 1

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William Hurt, Vantage Point

Oscar weekend is a typically slow one at the box office, and while this was really no exception, Vantage Point performed quite strongly to open at No. 1 and beat out a slew of rivals.

The political thriller grossed $24 million, according to Sunday’s estimates, and that was despite the drubbing it got from critics and shrugs it got from audiences (who skewed old and awarded the film a ho-hum B- CinemaScore review). That debut figure is also the second best of Dennis Quaid’s career (following The Day After Tomorrow‘s $68.7 mil); it’s a bit down from Forest Whitaker’s opening high point (Panic Room‘s $30.1 mil); but it is the top bow ever for Matthew Fox (who, to be fair, has acted mostly in TV).

Certainly, as anticipated, Vantage Point benefited from a dearth of fresh formidable foes; the next five movies in the rankings are all holdovers. Jumper came in at No. 2 with $12.7 mil, an unsurprising 54 percent drop from its winning debut. The Spiderwick Chronicles (No. 3) was next with $12.6 mil, a nice 34 percent decline from its somewhat disappointing opening last weekend. Step Up 2 the Streets (No. 4) brought in a solid $9.8 mil on a 48 percent drop. And Fool’s Gold continued to hang around in the top five, grossing $6.3 mil in its third frame.

In fact, you have to go all the way to No. 7, where 12-week player Juno and newcomer Be Kind Rewind tied with $4.1 mil, to find the next new film. And you have to leave the top 10 altogether to find the others: Witless Protection banked a bad $2.2 mil, and Charlie Bartlett was a complete nonstarter, grossing just $1.8 mil.

It’s no surprise, then, that the usually slow Oscar weekend was even slower than usual this time; overall, the box office was down 7 percent from the same frame a year ago.

But enough of all that, because I know what’s really on everybody’s mind today. As Billy Crystal used to sing, it’s…a…wonderful night for Oscar, Oscar, Oscar! How do the Best Picture candidates look going into the big show, box office-wise? Well, the aforementioned Juno is the clear financial champion, with $130.4 mil — just a hair shy of the $132.4 mil that last year’s Best Picture winner, The Departed, grossed in sum. No Country for Old Men is next with $64.2 mil in the bank; Atonement ($49.4 mil) and Michael Clayton ($48.5 mil) are neck and neck; and There Will Be Blood has drilled up a $35 mil gusher.

Who will win? Hey — shameless plug time! — log back onto EW.com tonight for our complete Oscar coverage, including a live blog of the telecast, reports from the show, photos, and more. It’s gonna be fun, people, it’s gonna be fun.

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