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"Think Like a Man" ends 'Hunger Games" streak

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The box office competition finally overwhelmed "The Hunger Games" as the romantic comedy "Think Like a Man" beat expectations with a chart-topping $33.0 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over the weekend.

Love story "The Lucky One" also exceeded forecasts to finish second with $22.8 million from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates. The two films pushed the blockbuster "Hunger Games" to third, ending its four-week streak at No. 1.

"Think Like a Man" is based on comedian Steve Harvey's best-selling, non-fiction relationship guide "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man."

The movie follows four couples trying to work out various issues and stars Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, hip-hop singer Chris Brown and Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson. Harvey was executive producer and has a small role playing himself.

The film cost a modest $13 million to make, and received positive feedback in pre-release screenings, said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Corp's Sony Pictures studio.

"We definitely felt like we had a hit coming," Bruer said. Still, the weekend performance "exceeded everyone's expectations," he said.

Audiences gave "Think Like a Man" an "A" grade in polling by survey firm CinemaScore.

"The Lucky One" tells the story of a U.S. Marine who returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq, convinced that the one thing that kept him safe and alive was a photograph of a beautiful woman he found in the rubble of war.

It also was based on a book, a 2008 best-seller from well-known "Notebook" author Nicholas Sparks. The movie stars Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling and cost about $25 million to produce.

Efron's female fan base helped the movie beat forecasts. Fifty-seven percent of moviegoers polled said the actor was their top reason for seeing the film, said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. studio.

"The Lucky One" added $3.8 million from nine international markets, bringing its global debut to $26.6 million.

"Hunger Games," the smash hit about an oppressive society's televised teen death match, took in an estimated $14.5 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters during the weekend. Global sales for the film from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp reached $572.7 million since its release.

The weekend's other new movie, nature documentary "Chimpanzee," finished in fourth place with $10.2 million. It scored the highest opening among four films released by Walt Disney Co's Disneynature film unit, which makes wildlife movies and supports conservation efforts.

Comedy "The Three Stooges," from News Corp's 20th Century Fox studio, finished fifth with $9.2 million.

Also this weekend, action movie "Battleship" pulled in $58.4 million during its second weekend in international markets and brought its total to $129.6 million. The movie from Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures opens in the United States and Canada on May 18.

(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Editing by Bill Trott)

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