By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Military drama "Act of Valor" claimed the No. 1 spot on movie box office charts, beating expectations with an estimated $24.7 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales during another busy weekend at theaters.
Tyler Perry's new drama, "Good Deeds," finished in second place with $16.0 million, according to studio estimates released on Sunday as Hollywood prepared for the Academy Awards.
"Act of Valor" stars real-life, active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs alongside professional actors in a fictional story about a mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent. Some scenes used live fire rather than visual effects.
Audiences liked the movie, awarding an "A" grade in polling by survey firm CinemaScore and providing high marks in studio exit polls, said Kyle Davies, president of worldwide theatrical distribution for Relativity Media, the independent studio that released the film. "You don't get a consistent reaction like that unless the movie delivers," he said.
The movie attracted a 71 percent male audience, and 60 percent of filmgoers were older than age 25, Relativity said. The studio acquired the film for $13 million and had projected opening weekend sales of up to $17 million.
Perry's "Good Deeds" finished in line with projections from distributor Lions Gate Entertainment. In the film, Perry plays a CEO controlled by his domineering mother until a friendship with a woman on the office cleaning crew inspires him to rebel.
One of Hollywood's most successful filmmakers, Perry also wrote, produced and directed the movie. It was his first central film role not based on Madea, the foul-mouthed grandmother he is famous for playing on stage and screen.
The audience for "Good Deeds" was 76 percent female and 85 percent older than 25. Sales rose 25 percent from Friday night to Saturday night, Lions Gate said. Audiences awarded an "A" grade in CinemaScore polling.
Overall the weekend produced the eighth consecutive winner for Hollywood compared with last year. Sales for all movies came in 24 percent ahead of the same period a year ago, according to the box office division of Hollywood.com. Year-to-date sales were nearly 18 percent ahead of 2011.
In third place, family film "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson took in $13.5 million during its third weekend in domestic theaters. The movie's total sales worldwide have topped $235 million.
Rounding out the top five, Denzel Washington thriller "Safe House" grabbed $11.4 million and love story "The Vow" grossed $10.0 million. Both movies were in their third weekends of release.
Two other new films couldn't crack the top five.
Comedy "Wanderlust" rung up $6.6 million, earning eighth place. The movie stars Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd as a stressed Manhattan couple who start a new life in a commune. Universal and Relativity produced the film for about $30 million.
"Gone," a new thriller starring Amanda Seyfried, pulled in $5.0 million domestically and finished in ninth place. The movie tells the story of a woman trying to find a serial killer who has abducted her sister.
Among films competing for Oscars later on Sunday, black-and-white silent movie "The Artist" pulled in $3.0 million, bringing its domestic total to $31.9 million. George Clooney drama "The Descendants" grossed $2.2 million for a cumulative total of $78.5 million at domestic theaters.
Lions Gate's Summit Entertainment unit distributed "Gone." "Safe House" and "Wanderlust" were released by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp. Time Warner Inc unit Warner Bros released "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Sony Corp's film studio distributed "The Vow."
(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Editing by Eric Beech)