The Prestige casts its spell at the US box office

Going into the weekend, the US press were confident that Clint Eastwood - surely a major contender for this year’s Oscars with stirring war epic Flags Of Our Fathers - would romp home at the number one position. But they weren’t counting on the charms of Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Christopher Nolan, who pulled a win out of their hats with The Prestige.

Admittedly, the tale of duelling magicians hasn’t exactly scored big - $14.8 million is not the sort of opening weekend that studio executives’ dreams are made of, but it’s still an impressive effort given the landslide of laudatory press for Clint.

But the real smile of the weekend is the one still on Martin Scorsese’s face as he watches The Departed continue to thunder into the hearts and minds of cinemagoers. Spending a second week in the number two slot, the crime drama now has $77.1 million to its name, on course to handily pass $100 million before it departs the fleapits.

Third place, then, for Dirty Harry Directs The War, as Flags Of Our Fathers seemed to draw in an older crowd and failed to catch the imagination of the general public, making just $10 million. Still, Eastwood’s films tend to be slow burners, so let’s see how it manages in the coming weeks.

In fourth, Open Season proved that, like The Departed, it’s impossible to tell which films will have legs. It’s holding on well, spending a second week in the same space and grabbing nearly $70 million to date. It was ahead of the third new entry of the week – family horse drama Flicka, which arrived looking seriously lame with just $7.7 million and will likely be quietly taken round the back of the woodshed in the coming weeks and given the buckshot treatment.

Still, that opening was better than The Grudge 2’s second weekend, which saw it take a fall down to sixth and $7.6 million. That put it ahead of Man Of The Year, with Robin Williams’ political satire taking just $7 million in its second outing. Arriving in the charts in a limited release (just 859 screens this launch weekend) was Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. It managed $5.3 million with those few screens, so it’ll be one to watch in the coming weeks.

Wrapping up the charts, we have The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, with $3.8 million and lacklustre action pic The Marine, which is about to fall out of the top ten following a second week performance of $3.7 million. Looks like people want their action with occasional brains at the moment…

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