Thanks to Brad Pitt and George Clooney's No. 1 comedy -- not to mention ''Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys,'' ''Righteous Kill,'' and ''The Women'' -- theatrical revenues were on the rise for the first time in weeks
Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, ...

After several straight super-slow weekends, the box office has gotten fired up. Defying many projections, Brad Pitt and George Clooney's comedy Burn After Reading led a team of four major new releases to generally better-than-expected performances, boosting the cumulative theatrical take by nearly 34 percent over the same frame a year ago.

Blazing the trail was Burn After Reading, which banked an impressive $19.4 mil, according to Sunday's estimates. That's the best debut ever, by far, for filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen: Of their 13 previous movies, only 2004's The Ladykillers ($12.6 mil debut) and 2003's Intolerable Cruelty ($12.5 mil bow) even premiered north of $10 mil. The opening sum was also good news for Pitt and Clooney, neither of whom has had such a big, non-Ocean's opening in several years. To find one, you have to go back to 2005's Mr. & Mrs. Smith for Pitt and to, gosh, 2000's The Perfect Storm for Clooney — although, to be fair, both actors tend to make a lot of small-release indie flicks.

For the Coens, it's a sweet follow-up to their Best Picture winner, No Country for Old Men, which also wound up their top total grosser, with $74.3 mil. Can Burn After Reading do as well? It'll be a challenge, considering the movie's merely moderate reviews and a fall box office slate that's only going to get more crowded. Still, this is a nice start.

Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys (No. 2) was next, with $18 mil. Though down a tick from the consistent $20 mil-plus bows of most of Perry's movies, The Family That Preys did well considering that it wasn't based on one of the auteur's popular stage productions. Also welcome: That solid A CinemaScore review from audiences, who tend to abandon Perry's films after the first weekend. Perhaps they'll show this one more love in the long run.

Close behind at No. 3 was Righteous Kill, the Robert De Niro-Al Pacino reunion, which grossed a solid $16.5 mil. That's the biggest non-franchise premiere for these two actors in ages, as well: De Niro's Hide and Seek bowed to $22 mil in 2005, and Pacino's The Recruit premiered with $16.3 mil in 2003.

As expected, the weekend's other big opener, The Women (No. 4), fared worst, banking just $10.1 mil in nearly 3,000 theaters, though I suppose that sum could have been a lot lower. In actual fact, that's Meg Ryan's best bow in — gasp! — almost a decade. Four-week holdover The House Bunny brought in $4.3 mil to round out the top five. Tropic Thunder (No. 6 with $4.2 mil) jumped the $100 mil mark, as did Step Brothers and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. And in art houses, Alan Ball's controversial race/sex drama Towelhead enjoyed a nice $13,250 debut average in four locations.

Overall, the increased box office revenues were truly welcome; this was the first "up" weekend in nearly two months. And that Hollywood was able to achieve some success without the help of Batman, well, hey, that's even better.

Burn After Reading
  • Movie
  • 96 minutes