box officeWho won at the box office this weekend? Sure, "Gone Girl" earned the most money -- an estimated $26.8 million -- but several other movies could also plausibly claim victory and bragging rights by different measures of success. Overall, this was a good weekend for nearly every new film and many holdovers, with the total box office up 30 percent from the same weekend last year (and that was when "Captain Phillips" opened and "Gravity" was in its second weekend). And, like last weekend, the plenty-to-go-around results suggest that the long slump of summer and early fall is finally over.

So, which movie enjoyed the strongest performance this weekend? Here are the contenders:

"Gone Girl." Not only did the movie remain on top for a second weekend, holding off all newcomers, but it did so with better numbers than anyone expected. Its estimated $26.8 million is a good $2 or $3 million more than the most optimistic pundits had predicted; its take represents a fall-off from last weekend's debut of just 29 percent. The thriller seemed to draw love-it-or-hate-it responses, but people just couldn't stop talking about it. All that chatter (much of it thankfully spoiler-free) must have prompted newbies to go see what all the fuss was about. As a result, the movie has earned a 10-day total of $78.3 million, sending it well on its way to overtaking "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" ($127.5 million) as director David Fincher's biggest hit.

"Dracula Untold." The second-place finisher, with an estimated $23.5 million, also outperformed expectations to become the weekend's top new release. A prequel of sorts – part horror film, part historical drama, part special-effects spectacle – the low star-power film was expected to stumble against horror holdover "Annabelle," a more straight-up scarefest. But it held its own and earned a healthy $8,125 per-screen average, almost as good as "Gone Girl" ($8,161). Only the Ben Affleck thriller's higher theater count (3,284 to 2,887) ensured its victory. Given an A- grade from CinemaScore, strong word-of-mouth should sustain "Dracula" until "Ouija" opens in a couple weeks.

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." Coming in third with an estimated $19.1 million, "Alexander" earned about $1 million more than expected and became the week's top family movie. Even so, older moviegoers continued to prove their box office clout, with viewers over 25 making up 44 percent of "Alexander's" audience, according to studio polling. Add this to "Gone Girl" and some of the other more clearly grown-up-oriented movies this weekend, and it's clear that the kids have gone back to school and left the multiplex as a playground for adults.

"Annabelle." It slipped two slots to No. 4 and lost 56 percent of its business from last week's debut – a typical second-week drop for a horror film. Still, it performed as expected (an estimated $16.4 million) and took in a 10-day total of $62.2 million, about ten times what it cost to make.

"Addicted." Despite minimal marketing and a debut in just 846 venues, this erotic thriller was the surprise hit of the week, scoring an estimated $7.6 million and finishing at No. 7. Clearly targeted at adults, especially African-American women, "Addicted" boasted a per-screen average of $8,983, the best of any wide-release movie this week. Give credit to bestselling erotic novelist Zane (whose 2001 book was adapted for the film), to distributor Lionsgate (whose not-too-subtly-named Codeblack division seems to know how to reach its target African-American audience), to star Sharon Leal (building on the fanbase she started with her role in Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" movies), and to director Bille Woodruff, who was smart enough to put actors like Boris Kodjoe and Tyson Beckford on ample display for female viewers.

"Kill the Messenger." With an estimated $939,000 take, from 374 screens, this drama starring Jeremy Renner as real-life investigative journalist Gary Webb was the week's top new independent movie.

"Whiplash." This much-buzzed feature from Sundance, starring Miles Teller as a musical prodigy, was the week's top new platform release, earning an estimated $143,503 on just six screens. Watch for its nationwide haul to build, along with its awards prospects, over the next few weeks.

"St. Vincent." You'd think a movie starring Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy would be unbeatable, and you'd be right. The film debuted with an estimated $121,054 on just four screens, giving it the best per-screen average of the week at $30,264. ("Whiplash" wasn't far behind, with $23,917 per screen.) Again, this bodes well both for its awards hopes and its box office prospects as the movie expands nationwide in the coming weeks.

About the only movie that didn't share in this weekend's bounty was "The Judge." The Robert Downey Jr.-Robert Duvall drama opened in fifth place with an estimated $13.3 million, about $2 million less than expected. Audiences liked it better than critics did (viewers gave it a very good A- grade at CinemaScore), but the movie played to the older crowd that still takes reviews seriously. Some 85 percent of the ticketbuyers were over 25, so maybe the movie was too reliant on older filmgoers. The movie also proved, as did "The Soloist" a few years ago, that Downey isn't much of a box office draw when he takes of his Iron Man armor or his Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap. Apparently, "The Judge" needed more adulterous couples, family slapstick, or medieval vampires.

categories Movies, Box Office