A fear-inducing publicity stunt in theaters nationwide helped usher in success for the new film “Prom Night,” as the movie won the box office battle for the weekend ending April 13, according to USA Today and other film sources.

The slasher flick with a B-list cast vaulted to an estimated $22.7 million in its opening weekend after its distributor set-up cardboard ads, known as standees, in 120 theaters advertising the film. The standees, which looked like creepy mansions, invited moviegoers to step inside “for a night to die for.” When they opened the doors they were greeted by a screaming, flailing usher from the theater’s staff. Teens took videos of the reactions, which quickly became a hit on YouTube. The stunt was set-up by Sony Pictures and its umbrella studio, Screen Gems, says USA Today’s Scott Bowles.

The haul was $8 million more than most analysts projected and made it an easy winner over the Keanu Reeves crime thriller “Street Kings,” which met most projections with $12 million, Bowles noted. The action-crime drama stars Keanu Reaves as a veteran LAPD cop who finds life difficult to navigate after the death of his wife. When evidence implicates him in the execution of a fellow officer, he is forced to go up against the cop culture he’s been a part of his entire career, ultimately leading him to question the loyalties of everyone around him, according to IMDB.com. The film also stars Forest Whitaker and Hugh Laurie.

Nipping at “Street Kings’” heels was the Kevin Spacey vehicle, “21,” in its third week out. The film about a bunch of geniuses trying to break the bank in Las Vegas, generated an estimated $11 million last weekend, with a total gross to date of $62.3 million.

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The Jodie Foster action adventure “Nim’s Island” took the fourth place slot at $9 million, while the George Clooney football nostalgia flick “Leatherheads” scored an additional $6.21 million, earning a $21.9 million total to date.

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Box Office Grosses
Week Ending April 13, 2008

Rank Title Weekend Total Gross
1 Prom Night (2008) $22.7 M $22.7 M
2 Street Kings (2008) $12 M $12 M
3 21 (2008) $11 M $62.3 M
4 Nim’s Island (2008) $9 M $25.3 M
5 Leatherheads (2008) $6.21 M $21.9 M
6 Horton Hears a Who! (2008) $6 M $140 M
7 Smart People (2008) $4.2 M $4.2 M
8 The Ruins (2008) $3.25 M $13.4 M
9 Superhero Movie (2008) $3.11 M $21.2 M
10 Drillbit Taylor (2008) $2.07 M $28.5 M