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'Failure To Launch' Takes Off

"Failure to Launch," a romantic comedy starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker, took off at theaters, debuting as the top weekend movie with $24.6 million.

Two remakes opened in second and third place. Disney's family flick "The Shaggy Dog," starring Tim Allen, was No. 2 with $16 million, and Fox Searchlight's horror tale "The Hills Have Eyes" was No. 3 with $15.5 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"Failure to Launch," released by Paramount, bumped off Lionsgate's "Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion," which had been the No. 1 movie the previous two weekends. That movie slipped to No. 5, grossing $5.8 million to raise its total to $55.8 million.

Reviews generally were poor for all three new films, but they overcame the weak critical reception to combine for a healthy $56.1 million. Still, they were unable to match last year's top three, "Robots," "The Pacifier" and "Be Cool," which combined for $64.4 million over the same weekend.

The top 12 movies this weekend grossed $92.4 million, down 10.7 percent compared to the same weekend in 2005. After a strong start this year, Hollywood has slid back into a slump that persisted last year, when domestic attendance fell 7 percent compared to 2004.

While revenues are up slightly this year, factoring in higher ticket prices, attendance is down about 1 percent compared to 2005, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

"You don't want a repeat of what happened last year," Dergarabedian said. "It's still early in the year to call it, but every weekend it's down is chipping away at the advantage we had early on this year."

The three new wide releases offered solid variety for audiences, with "Failure to Launch" drawing the date crowd, "The Shaggy Dog" grabbing parents and their children and "The Hills Have Eyes" bringing in horror fans.

"Failure to Launch" stars McConaughey as a 35-year-old still living with his parents, who hire a bombshell (Parker) to entice him into moving out.

The "boomerang bachelor" syndrome is a growing phenomenon, Parker said on CBS News' The Early Show last week.

"My character, Paula, has seen an opportunity for a great business model, whereby she's hired by the parents because my character has determined through research that men develop self-esteem and mature best during a romantic relationship.

"So she sets up the scenario where she meets these men. She's hired by the parents. She pretends to fall in love with them. She safely gets them out of the house and entrenched in adult life and then, with grace and compassion, she extricates herself from these men so they can move on."

Except not with this client.

"It's Matthew McConaughey and all the rules go right out the window," Parker says, adding "he is the sexiest man alive."

Not surprisingly, the audience was two-thirds female, according to distributor Paramount.

"There hasn't been a good date movie in a while, and I think women just felt like it was going to be a fun movie," said Rob Moore, the studio's worldwide head of marketing and distribution.

"The Shaggy Dog" features Allen, Robert Downey Jr. and Parker's "Sex and the City" co-star Kristin Davis in an update of the 1959 Disney original and sequel, "The Shaggy D.A." Allen plays a prosecutor transformed by a canine bite into a goofy sheepdog.

"The Hills Have Eyes" updates Wes Craven's 1977 horror story, about a family whose road trip takes a grisly detour when they encounter mutant cannibals. Craven serves as a producer on the remake.

Though already out on home video, the ensemble drama "Crash" returned for an encore in theaters to capitalize on its best-picture Academy Award the previous weekend. The film reopened in 175 theaters and grossed $357,000, raising its theatrical total to $53.8 million.

Here are estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

    1. "Failure to Launch," $24.6 million.
    2. "The Shaggy Dog," $16 million.
    3. "The Hills Have Eyes," $15.5 million.
    4. "16 Blocks," $7.3 million.
    5. "Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion," $5.8 million.
    6. "Eight Below," $5.4 million.
    7. "Aquamarine," $3.65 million.
    8 (tie). "The Pink Panther," $3.6 million.
    8 (tie). "Ultraviolet," $3.6 million.
    10. "Date Movie," $2.5 million.