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Milla Jovovich leads weekend box office, ahead of 'Finding Nemo' 3D

Milla Jovovich, in 'Resident Evil:Retribution' brought in $21.1 million in the US, edging out the release of 'Finding Nemo' in 3D. Milla Jovovich's husband, Paul W.S. Anderson, has made three of the five 'Resident Evil' films

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Meanwhile, Paul Thomas Anderson's cult drama "The Master" commanded a huge following in its opening weekend, smashing records on just a handful of screens.

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The Weinstein Co. release made $729,745 in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a record-setting per-screen average of $145,949, according to Sunday studio estimates. The hugely anticipated film, which just won several of the top awards at the Venice Film Festival and will open in more cities in upcoming weeks, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader and Joaquin Phoenix as his wayward protege.

The huge opening for "The Master" beats the per-screen-average record for a live-action feature debut set earlier this year by Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," which made $522,996 when it opened on four screens in May for an average of $130,749.

Asked who the audience was for "The Master," Weinstein Co. president of theatrical distribution Erik Lomis said: "We didn't do exit polls but from eyeballing the ArcLight (Cinemas), everyone in Los Angeles showed up."

Part of the allure was the rare opportunity to see the film projected in lush 70mm, which was possible at four of the five locations where it was playing. Expertly paced trailers released over the past few months revealed nothing, and unannounced screenings in select cities created more buzz. And some of the film's mystique may have come from its parallels to the origins of the secretive Church of Scientology. Anderson has said the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, provided inspiration for Hoffman's character.

"We knew we would do a lot of business but we didn't think it would be this big," Lomis said. "We knew from not only the pop-up screenings and the guerrilla marketing PTA does but also from the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto (International) Film Festival that we had something special. But you can never expect these kinds of numbers — it blew the doors off the theaters."

As Dergarabedian phrased it: "Paul Thomas Anderson, among film buffs and film fans, is a directing god. He's on Mount Rushmore with Christopher Nolan and some other great filmmakers. When he puts out a movie, it's a long lead time — we're forced to wait for a new Paul Thomas Anderson film. 'There Will Be Blood' was 2007.

"In the independent world, directors are the stars," he added. "They draw people to the theater and fill theaters."

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

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