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Box Office Report: J.J. Abrams' 'Super 8' Defies Odds to Earn $37 Million

Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney in Super 8
François Duhamel/Paramount Pictures

The Paramount earned another $1 million in sneaks; Fox’s ‘X-Men’ holds well to come in No. 2 at the domestic box office, while 'Judy Moody' falls flat.

J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 opened to a better-than-expected $37 million at the domestic box office after an aggressive eleventh hour marketing blitz by Paramount. Including paid previews on Thursday, the period sci-fi pic has earned $38 million in its first four days.

Overseas, Super 8 began rolling out in a handful of markets, grossing $6.7 million for a worldwide launch of $44.7 million. The biggest territory was Australia, where the movie earned $2.7 million.

Super 8—produced by Steven Spielberg—had been the focus of intense speculation because of soft tracking and a marketing campaign that left the film’s plot shrouded in mystery. Tracking showed the Super 8 opening to $25 million to $30 million domestically, despite the pedigree of Abrams and Spielberg.

Paramount’s efforts to whip up buzz on the eve of the film’s release seem to have paid off. On Thursday, the studio partnered with Twitter to host paid previews across the country, preceded by free sneaks Wednesday in 11 cities. 

Ultimately, Super 8’s performed on par with sleeper-hit District 9, which opened to $37.3 million at the domestic box office in August 2009. And Super 8 was up on Saturday--$14 million, versus $12.2 million on Friday--a sign of positive word-of-mouth.

“I think we accomplished what we set out to do. It was never positioned as a big blockbuster, but as a smaller movie,” Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said. “We used the sneaks to infuse the marketplace with great word-of-mouth, and it certainly looks like it paid off.”
Paramount maintains Super 8 didn’t need a big opening, since it cost $50 million to produce, far less than other summer studio films. 

Super 8 drew a B+ CinemaScore, while 71% of the audience was over the age of 25. That wasn’t a surprise to Paramount, since the movie is Abrams’ homage to the Steven Spielberg films he grew up. Males made up 56% of the audience.

The movie played in 3,379 theaters, including 239 Imax locations. Imax grosses clocked in at $4.4 million, a strong start and representing 12% of total earnings.

Set in 1979, Super 8 tells the story of a group of kids who are filming a home movie when there’s a violent train crash. When unexplained events start to threaten their town, they begin to suspect something inhuman escaped from the train. The film stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ryan Lee, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso and Zach Mills.

Super 8 held a comfortable lead over 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: First Class, which grossed $25 million in its second weekend for a cume of $98.9 million. The prequel fell 55%--the second best hold for any X-Men pic besides X2: X-Men United.

“It’s a high quality original film, and has great playability,” Fox senior vice president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson.

Overseas, First Class grossed $42.2 million for a cume of $124.2 million and worldwdie total of $222.5 million.

Two films jumped the $200 million mark over the weekend at the domestic box office—Warner Bros.’ The Hangover Part II and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Hangover II, placing No. 3 for the frame, fell only 41% to an estimated $18.5 million for a domestic cume of $216.6 million. The comedy's international cume is now $215.5 million for a worldwide total of $432.1 million---not that far behind the $467.5 million earned by the original The Hangover. Overses, the pic has already surpassed the lifetime gross of the first film ($190.2 million).

On Stranger Tides grossed $10.4 million domestically for a cume of $208.8 million. Overseas, the 3D tentpole grossed $41.1 milion for the frame, bringing the movie’s international total to a massive $678 million and worldwide tally to $886.8 million.

At the domestic box office, On Stranger Tides came in No. 5. Placing No. 4 was DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s Kung Fu Panda 2, which grossed $16.6  million for a cume of $126.9 million. Overseas, the 3D toon grossed $56.5 million to jump the $200 million mark and end the weekend with a cume of $205 million. That brings the worldwide total to $331.9 million.

After Super 8, the weekend’s other new nationwide release new was Relativity Media and Smokewood Entertainment’s Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, which debuted to a soft $6.1 million. The film, based on the bestselling book series, was distributed by Relativity, although Smokewood paid for all marketing costs in addition to fully financing the $20 million movie.

Among specialty titles, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris turned in strong results as it expanded to 944 theaters, grossing $6.1 million for a stellar cume of $14.2 million. Midnight placed No. 8 for the weekend.

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life scored the highest screen average of the frame, grossing $875,126 from 47 theaters for an average $18,620 and coming in No. 11 overall. From Fox Searchlight, Tree of Life has now earned $2.4 million domestically. On Friday, the film expands again and will be playing in 114 theaters. 

Focus Features’ saw good results as it expanded Mike Mills’ Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer, into 19 theaters. The dramedy grossed $254,587 for a per theaters average of $13,399 and cume of $464,856 in its second weekend.

Domestic box office revenues were down roughly 7% from a year ago.