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Zombie romance 'Warm Bodies' heats up box office on Super Bowl weekend, nabs $20 million

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - The love-struck zombies of "Warm Bodies" swarmed the box office on Super Bowl weekend with a $20 million opening.

On a weekend that Hollywood largely yields to football, the PG-13 film from Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment easily led the box office, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Super Bowl always means a significant slide in movie-going on Sunday — studios predict a decrease of as much as 70 per cent from Saturday to Sunday — but "Warm Bodies" still lured many teenage fans.

The film is about a zombie whose love for a human redeems him. Lionsgate, which also released the "Twilight" saga, is calling it a "rom-zom-com" for its mix of humour, romance and the supernatural. The film appealed particularly to females, who made up 60 per cent of the audience.

"They've definitely cracked the code on how to attract that teen audience with films like 'The Hunger Games,' 'Twilight' and something like 'Warm Bodies,' which definitely plays right into the sweet spot of that demographic," says Hollywood.com box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

David Spitz, executive vice-president of Lionsgate, said the studio courted female teens with "Warm Bodies" by pairing its trailer with the last "Twilight" film, "Breaking Dawn, Part II."

Younger female audiences have some history of turning out on Super Bowl weekends. The most successful film released the weekend of the big game was in 2008, when "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert" opened with $31.1 million.

"There was just nothing in the marketplace like this," said Spitz. "Is it more zombie horror? Is it more romantic comedy? Is it more comedy? It's a mixture and that's the reason why the film found an audience."

Action films continued to fare poorly in 2013, as Sylvester Stallone's "Bullet to the Head" opened with just $4.5 million for Warner Bros. That meant his brawny cohort Arnold Schwarzenegger bested him when his "The Last Stand" opened with $7.2 million in January.

But both openings were poor. Along with the weak performance of Jason Statham's "Parker," which has taken in $12.4 million in two weeks for FilmDistrict, moviegoers aren't turning out for traditional R-rated action movies. That trend should reverse itself when Bruce Willis' "A Good Day to Die Hard" opens Feb. 14, Dergarabedian said.

Last week's top film, Paramount's "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," dropped to second with $9.2 million on the weekend.

The other debut of note was Lionsgate's "Stand Up Guys," which stars Al Pacino and Christopher Walken as veteran gangsters on a last hurrah romp. Though it opened in limited release in 659 theatres, it took in just $1.5 million.

The most Super Bowl-appropriate film in theatres, the Oscar-nominated "Silver Linings Playbook," continued to add to its stretched-out run for the Weinstein Co. The film, which centres on a family of diehard Philadelphia Eagles fans, came in third place, adding $8.1 million for a cumulative total of $80.4 million.

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "Warm Bodies," $20 million.

2. "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," $9.2 million.

3. "Silver Linings Playbook," $8.1 million.

4. "Mama," $6.7 million.

5. "Zero Dark Thirty," $5.3 million.

6. "Bullet to the Head," $4.5 million.

7. "Parker," $3.2 million.

8. "Django Unchained," $3 million.

9. "Les Miserables," $2.4 million.

10. "Lincoln," $2.4 million.

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Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle

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