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'Hansel & Gretel' nabs US$19 mil., No. 1 at box office

LOS ANGELES--“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” cooked up US$19 million in its opening weekend.

Paramount's action film update on the classic fairytale topped the box office, according to studio estimates Sunday. “Hansel & Gretel” features Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as grown-up renditions of the title characters battling witches with crossbows.

Don Harris, Paramount's president of distribution, blamed icy weather on the East Coast for the film's not-so-bewitching debut.

“We got dinged a little bit with the weather on Friday, but overall we're pleased,” said Harris, who added that “Hansel & Gretel” performed solidly internationally, earning US$25 million overseas.

Other films opening over the weekend in the U.S. and Canada didn't fare as well. The crime thriller “Parker,” starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, debuted in fifth place with US$7 million, while Relativity Media's raunchy ensemble comedy “Movie 43” opened in the seventh spot with US$5 million.

Hollywood.com box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian noted that it was the first time box-office grosses were down over last year after four up weekends.

Universal's supernatural horror film “Mama” starring Jessica Chastain dropped to second place with US$12.8 million in its second weekend.

Several best-picture Academy Awards contenders continued to benefit from Oscar buzz, as well as the motion picture academy's decision to move up this year's nomination announcement, giving nominees more time in theaters between the Jan. 10 nominations unveiling and the Feb. 24 ceremony.

“Having an Oscar nomination is like holding a lottery ticket,” said Dergarabedian. “It could pay off on Oscar night, but it's already paying big dividends now. All this time between the Oscar nominations and the telecast is prime time for these movies to capitalize on their higher profile.”

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