Box Office: Brad Pitt's 'Fury' Conquers Competition With $23.5M Weekend

'Gone Girl' edges out 'The Book of Life,' while 'Best of Me' suffers the lowest opening ever for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation

Thanks to an army of older males, David Ayer's Fury won the North American box office battle with $23.5 million from 3,173 theaters, toppling Gone Girl from the top spot and delivering one of the best openings of all time for a World War II war movie, not accounting for inflation. It's also another win for star Brad Pitt.

Fury is a career best for Ayer. As fate would have it, the year's other high-profile WWII drama, the upcoming Unbroken, is directed by Pitt's wife, Angelina Jolie.

Sony, QED International and LStar Capital spent $68 million to make Fury, featuring Pitt as a battle-hardened Army sergeant in command of a Sherman tank and its five-man crew as they attempt to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany (Sony is aggressively marketing the film to veterans). The film, earning an A- CinemaScore, also features Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs and Scott Eastwood.

Read more Brad Pitt to Toast Veterans at 'Fury' Washington Premiere

While Fury played heavily to males (60 percent), Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer noted that females, likely lured in by Pitt, made up a healthy percentage. "It's really resonating with all audiences," he said. Overall, 51 percent of the audience was over the age of 35.

Strong reviews, along with the successful U.S. launch, should bolster Fury's showing overseas, where it begins rolling out next weekend.

In 2009, Pitt starred in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, which lays claim to the No. 2 opening of all time for a WWII war title ($38.1 million) after Pearl Harbor ($59.1 million). Fury ranks No. 4 behind those two titles and Saving Private Ryan ($30.6 million).

Holdover Gone Girl — jumping the $100 million mark domestically and the $200 million mark globally — edged out new family entry Book of Life to take the No. 2 spot domesticaly (both are from 20th Century Fox). Gone Girl fell just 33 percent to $17.8 million from 3,241 theaters for a total $107.1 million. Overseas, Gone Girl took in another $20.2 million for a foreign cume of $94.7 million and worldwide haul of $201.8 million.

Read more 'Gone Girl' Cast on David Fincher's Pranks, Multiple Takes

By the end of Halloween weekend, Gone Girl will have surpassed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($127.5 million) to become Fincher's top film of all time in North America.

Book of Life, produced by Guillermo del Toro and fueled by Hispanic moviegoers (40 percent), came in No. 3 with a solid $17 million from 3,071 theaters. Fox Animation and ReelFX co-produced the $50 million movie, voiced by Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Hector Elizondo, Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana.

The pic, set around the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, likewise earned an A- CinemaScore. The 3D title skewed female (57 percent), while 54 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25, with many of those under the age of 10.

"The origins of the story are in Mexican folklore, so we targeted Hispanics, but we broadened the campaign to make it accessible for all audiences," said Fox domestic distribution president Chris Aronson. "As for Gone Girl, it's a box office phenomenon. If you don't see the movie, you're not part of the conversation. And there is a whole lot of conversation going on."

Overseas, Book of Life debuted to $8.6 million from its first 19 markets, many of them in Latin America, for a global launch of $25.6 million. Mexico led with $3.8 million, followed by Brazil with $2 million.

Read more Trailer for Guillermo del Toro's 'Book of Life' Teases Magic and Love After Death (Video)

The weekend's third new nationwide offering was romancer The Best of Me, the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, starring Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato and Gerald McRaney.

Best of Me placed No. 5 for the weekend with $10.2 million from 2,936 locations, the lowest debut for a Sparks adaptation, not accounting for inflation. The previous low was the $12.2 million debut of A Walk to Remember in 2002.

Relativity partnered on the $26 million film with DiNovi Pictures and Nicholas Sparks Productions, and says its financial risk is minimal after selling off international rights and taking advantage of tax credits. Still, the $26 million budget doesn't include marketing costs. Best of Me, earning a B+ CinemaScore, came in behind Disney holdover Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which took the No. 4 spot.

"We have had great success with Nicholas Sparks over the years and are always glad to be in business with him. We are confident the film will play well over the coming weeks given its word of mouth and strong CinemaScore," a Relativity spokesperson said. The company also worked with Sparks on Safe Haven and Dear John.

Alejandro G. Inarritu's dark comedy Birdman soared at the specialty box office, earning $415,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a whopping location average of $103,750, the second-best showing in two years after Wes Anderson's 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel ($202,792).

Read more New York Film Fest: 'Birdman' Cast on Superheroes, Theater and How "Being a Celebrity Is S—"

Fox Searchlight and New Regency partnered on Birdman, starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up superhero-movie star who tries to reclaim his career by staging a play on Broadway. The awards contender also stars Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone.

Roadside Attractions and Justin Simien's satirical dramedy Dear White People also prospered, earning $338,000 from 11 theaters in select markets for a location average of $30,702. 

Here are the estimated top 10 films for the weekend of Oct. 17-19 at the domestic box office:

Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Weekend Total, Percentage Change, Cume

1. Fury, 1/3,173, Sony/QED, $23.5 million

2. Gone Girl, 3/3,249, Fox/New Regency, $17.8 million, -33%, $107.1 million

3. The Book of Life, 1/3,071, Fox/ReelFX, $17 million

4. Alexander...Very Bad Day, 2/3,088, Disney, $12 million, -34%, $36.9 million

5. The Best of Me, 1/2,936, Relativity, $10.2 million

6. Dracula Untold, 1/2,887, Universal/Legendary, $9.9 million, -58%, $40.7 million

7. The Judge, 2/3,003, Warner Bros./Village Roadshow, $7.94 million, -39%, $26.8 million

8. Annabelle, 3/2,878, Warner Bros./New Line, $7.92 million, -50%, $74.1 million

9. The Equalizer, 4/2,262, Sony/Village Roadshow, $5.5 million, -44%, $89.2 million

10. The Maze Runner, 5/2,155, Fox, $4.5 million, -40%, $90.8 million

Twitter: @PamelaDayM

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