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'Evil' zombies rule the box office

Milla Jovovich stars in 'Resident Evil: Extinction,' the third installment of the popular franchise. Milla Jovovich stars in "Resident Evil: Extinction," the third installment of the popular franchise. (Rolf Konow/Sony Pictures)

LOS ANGELES - The undead of "Resident Evil" still have plenty of life in them.

"Resident Evil: Extinction," with Milla Jovovich again fighting flesh-hungry zombies in the third installment based on the video game, opened as the No. 1 weekend flick with $24 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates yesterday.

It was the best debut for the franchise, topping the $23 million debut of part two, 2004's "Resident Evil: Apocalypse."

Sony Screen Gems hinted there could be more "Resident Evil" movies, though the latest had been billed as the final one.

"Until the next," joked Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution. "It absolutely would not surprise me, considering the success of the franchise, that they find a way to come up with another. It's a real possibility."

Lionsgate's "Good Luck Chuck," with Jessica Alba and Dane Cook in a romantic comedy about a man jinxed at finding true love, debuted in second place with $14 million despite an almost unanimous thrashing by critics.

Universal's "Sydney White," starring Amanda Bynes as a college freshman who teams with frat-house dorks in a fight against campus snobs, premiered at No. 6 with $5.3 million.

The previous weekend's top movie, the Warner Bros. drama "The Brave One," fell to No. 3 with $7.4 million, raising its total to $25.1 million.

Brad Pitt's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" each opened strongly in limited release.

Penn went behind the camera for his fourth directing effort on "Into the Wild," which took in $206,596 at four theaters for a whopping average of $51,649 a cinema, compared with $8,487 in 2,828 theaters for "Resident Evil: Extinction."

"Into the Wild," released by Paramount Vantage, stars Emile Hirsch in the real-life story of Christopher McCandless, whose two-year odyssey across North America ended tragically in Alaska.

Pitt stars in the Warner Bros. saga "Assassination of Jesse James," which took in $144,000 in five theaters, averaging $28,800. The film chronicles the last year of James's life as he lapses into paranoia over betrayal by cohorts, among them admirer Ford, played by Casey Affleck.

"Into the Wild" expands to more theaters beginning Friday. "Assassination of Jesse James" begins wider release Oct. 5.

Focus Features' "Eastern Promises" expanded from a handful of theaters into nationwide release, coming in at No. 5 with $5.7 million.

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