Box Office: Resident Evil's Zombie Jamboree

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Milla Jovovich stars in Resident Evil: Afterlife

Tim Burton's Wonderland wanderer has nothing on the Alice played by Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil films. The creatures she meets in her Horrorland are weirder and more menacing — supercomputers and a million zombies instead of Mad Hatters and caterpillars — and her legion of fans no less ravenous to attend her tales. Every three years comes another episode; it instructs the audience to "eat me" ... and the grosses grow ever larger. The fourth installment, Resident Evil: Afterlife, opened to a scrumptious $27.7 million at the North American box office, according to early studio estimates. That meant utter annihilation for any movie in its wake: the picture's take for the post–Labor Day weekend was greater than the next six films combined. Some monsters just can't be stopped.

Based on Shinji Mikami's 1996 PlayStation video game and its sequels, and Hollywoodized by Brit writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson (who added the Alice character), the film series began in 2002, with the first movie earning $17.7 million its opening weekend and a total of $40.2 million domestic and $102.4 million worldwide. The numbers were more robust for the 2004 sequel, Apocalypse ($23 million, $51.2 million and $129.4 million), and bigger still for the 2007 Extinction ($23.7 million, $50.6 million and $147.7 million). This weekend, in addition to the win in North America, Afterlife took in another $45.5 million abroad, including $15.5 million in Japan and $9.5 million in Russia. The series has now amassed about $450 million worldwide.

Spurred by its release in 3-D (it was shot in the stereoscopic process, not shot in a flat version then tarted up in faux-D), Afterlife scored a mammoth $8,648 per screen, more than three times as much as its nearest competitor, Takers, the heist drama that held well in its third week, and four times the score of The American, the George Clooney assassination thriller that was last weekend's No. 1. Afterlife's weekend take was also the all-time highest opening gross for a zombie movie, edging out the $26.7 million for the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake and the $24.7 million for last year's Zombieland — its studio, Sony, surely wants Resident Evil to stay undead.

Every other movie tanked this weekend, except for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which added 800 theaters and increased its business 72% from last week. It was a chance for vampire and werewolf fans to demonstrate that zombies don't have the monopoly on a movie audience's affections.

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend's top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. Resident Evil: Afterlife, $27.7 million, first weekend
2. Takers, $6.1 million; $48.1 million, third week
3. The American, $5.9 million; $26.7 million, second week
4. Machete, $4.2 million; $20.8 million, second week
5. Going the Distance, $3.8 million; $14 million, second week
6. The Other Guys, $3.6 million; $112.7 million, sixth week
7. The Last Exorcism, $3.45 million; $38.2 million, third week
8. The Expendables, $3.25 million; $98.5 million, fifth week
9. Inception, $3 million; $282.4 million, ninth week
10. Eat Pray Love, $2.9 million; $74.6 million, fifth week