'Battle: Los Angeles' Tops Box Office With $36 Million Opening

9:04 AM PST 03/13/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Battle: Los Angeles

"Mars Needs Moms" grosses just $6.8 million in its debut to come in No. 5.

Sony’s sci-fi action pic Battle: Los Angeles topped the domestic box office with a strong $36 million opening, but Warner Bros.' Red Riding Hood and Disney’s Mars Needs Moms weren’t so lucky.

The news was particularly bad for Disney financially, since Mars cost $150 million to produce, but only grossed $6.8 million in its debut—one of the studio's lowest openings in recent memory.

Paramount holdover Rango trounced both Mars and Red Riding Hood in its second weekend, falling only 39% to an estimated $23.1 million. In the first 10 days since its worldwide release, the critically acclaimed toon, placing No. 2, has earned a robust $68.7 million domestically and $46 million overseas for a total of $114.7 million.

Battle also made a major play overseas, grossing $16.7 million from 33 territories for a worldwide bow of $52.7 million.

Between Battle and Rango, the domestic box office showed some signs of recovery. Revenues were down only 10% from a year ago, a narrower decline than in other recent weekends.

But that didn’t mollify Warners, who said the general box office slump hurt Red Riding Hood. Starring Amanda Seyfried, the dark fantasy opened to an estimated $14.1 million, well behind expectations. The film, eviscerated by the critics, played to its intended audience—young females—only not enough turned out.

Red Riding Hood came in No. 3, followed by Universal holdover The Adjustment Bureau, which fell a respectable 46% in its second weekend to an estimated $11.5 million for a cume of $38.5 million, according to Rentrak.

Mars, the final film from Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers Digital under its now-severed deal with Disney, came in No. 5.

At the specialty box office, Focus Features' Jane Eyre got off to a winning start, scoring the best location average of 2011 so far. The film grossed an estimated $182,317 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a per screen average of $45,579.

Jane Eyre, directed by Cary Fukunaga, stars Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. Focus succeeded in getting both older and younger moviegoers, evidenced by strong matinee and nighttime business.

“It was an ideal mix of patrons,” Focus president of distribution Jack Foley said.

If Jane Eyre and Red Riding Hood played heavily to females, Battle: Los Angeles was the clear choice for men.

Males made up 68% of the audience, while 55% of those buying tickets were over the age of 25. The film drew a B CinemaScore, although younger moviegoers gave it an A-.

Battle placed No. 1 in many of the international markets where it opened, including Russia, where it grossed an impressive $4.6 million.

Related: Japan’s earthquake pushes down international box office 60% from last year

Battle, which cost $70 million to produce after tax incentives, is Sony’s fourth film in a row to open at No. 1 domestically after Green Hornet, The Roommate and Just Go With It.

Sony insiders said director Jonathan Liebesman and producer Neal Moritz worked closely with the studio in successfully delivering an event pic in March, coupled with a marketing campaign that wooed males by emphasizing the film’s action and visuals.

Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said the collaboration proved  an unbeatable combination.

“The result validated our belief in the film,” Bruer said. “It had imagery that was totally visceral and fun.”

Red Riding Hood received a B- CinemaScore. Of the audience, 64% were females, while 56% were under the age of 25.

Red Riding Hood’s soft bow isn’t good news for similar projects in the works, including two Snow White pics. Nor has CBS Films' Beastly -- a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast -- broken out. Beastly’s gross through Sunday was $17 million.

Red Riding Hood's marketing campaign heavily promoted filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first Twilight. But the studio’s efforts to lure Twilight fans fell somewhat short.

At the same time, Warners has limited financial exposure on Red Riding Hood, since it cost under $40 million to produce.

Warner Bros. executive vice president of distribution Jeff Goldstein said Red Riding Hood was a victim of circumstances, at least in part.

“I think in a stronger marketplace, it would have done more business,” Goldstein said.

Disney didn’t try to sugarcoat its disappointment at Mars Needs Moms, which Walt Disney Studios chair Rich Ross inherited from the previous administration.

Family films often start out slow, then gain steam, but Mars will probably not recoup, since it was designed to open north of $20 million domestically.

Mars didn’t fare any better overseas, where it opened in 14 territories, grossing $2.1 million.

In the U.S., families made up 85% of the audience, while 53% of those buying tickets were female. The film received a B CinemaScore.

"The right audience came, but not in the numbers we needed," Disney president of worldwide distribution Chuck Viane said. "I’m disappointed for the filmmakers. They spent at least two years of their lives making a terrific movie that people won’t see."

Zemeckis, who produced Mars, doesn’t usually miss so badly. ImageMovers’ last film was A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey. That pic grossed a solid, but not stellar, $325.3 million at the worldwide box office.

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