Box Office: ‘Tower Heist’ takes Friday but will ‘Puss in Boots’ win the weekend?

Unlike last weekend, Hollywood doesn’t have a freak New York snowstorm to blame on some weak new debuts Friday. At this point in November, American moviegoers are clearly trying to tell studio executives they are not happy with their choices at the local cineplex.

Debuting in the top spot Friday was Brett Ratner’s “Tower Heist” starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. The comedy heist film turned out to be less funny than originally pitched in ads and moviegoers might have been able to smell a rat. “Heist” had a very good $8.2 million Friday, but finishing with $25-26 million for the three-day was not what Universal Pictures was hoping for.

Not that far behind was last week’s champ, “Puss in Boots” with $7.8 million. The positively reviewed “Shrek” spinoff had a soft debut last weekend mostly because of the Northeast snowstorm which had many theaters closing early on Friday and power lost to millions. That audience appears to be making up for missing “Puss” this weekend. Because of Saturday and Sunday matinees, “Puss” could easily top “Heist” to win the frame with $27-29 million. No matter what, it will be close.

Surprisingly soft in third was “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.” The comedy was expected to finish behind “Tower” and “Puss,” but the $5.4 million Friday gross is significantly less than expected. At best, the third installment in the franchise could gross $15-16 million. That’s lower than the $20 million projected by pre-release polling, but is a bit higher than the $14.3 million “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” found a little over three years ago. Is it possible the fan base didn’t want to pay the higher ticket prices for 3D? Warner Bros. is no doubt scratching their heads over the results.

Dropping to fourth was “Paranormal Activity 3” with another $2.9 million and $89 million to date. It’s still going to be at least another week before “PA3” crosses the $100 million mark.

Falling to the fifth slot was 20th Century Fox’s “In Time.” The Sci-Fi thriller grossed just $2.5 million for $19 million in eight days. It likely won’t have much more time to catch fire in theaters.

Look for complete weekend estimates Sunday on HitFix.