'The American' reigns at weekend box office

Spy thriller "The American" rocketed to the top of the North American box office to beat out crime action flick "Takers," preliminary figures showed Sunday.

The debut weekend for George Clooney's atmospheric thriller, hailed by critics as a visually captivating but restrained departure for the Hollywood star, took in 12.3 million dollars in US and Canadian theaters this weekend, according to figures from industry tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Last week's winner "Takers," starring Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba and singers Chris Brown and T.I., earned 11.5 million dollars and fell to second place in its second week of release.

In third position was "Machete," mixing violence with a campy tribute to 1970s exploitation movies from directors Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis for an opening weekend take of 11.3 million dollars.

Fourth place went to the gruesome documentary-style horror movie "The Last Exorcism," which fell back from its competitive runner-up spot last weekend to take 7.6 million dollars.

The movie, directed by Daniel Stamm and co-produced by Eli Roth, a director known for his bloody thrillers, follows a disillusioned minister supposedly filming his last exorcism for a documentary.

At number five was new release "Going the Distance," a romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long about surviving a relationship where the couples live on different coasts of the United States. It earned 6.9 million dollars in its opening weekend.

In sixth was "The Expendables," Sylvester Stallone's film about a group of weathered mercenaries out to topple a South American dictator, which earned 6.8 million dollars in its fourth week in theaters.

Falling one position to the seventh spot was "The Other Guys," the latest Will Ferrell slapstick comedy, about two mismatched police officers paired on a high-profile crime investigation, which had a 5.4-million-dollar take at the box office.

"Eat, Pray, Love," Ryan Murphy's adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's novel about a divorcee's jaunt to Italy, Indonesia and India, starring Julia Roberts, fell to the eighth position with a take of 4.9 million dollars in its fourth week of release.

Down two places to number nine was blockbuster "Inception" starring Leonardo DiCaprio as an expert infiltrator of people's dreams, which took 4.5 million dollars over the weekend to bring its eight-week earnings to 277 million dollars.

"Nanny McPhee Returns," the sequel to a popular kid's film starring British actress Emma Thompson in the title role, rounded out the top 10 with 3.6 million dollars.