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Box Office Upset: 'Smurfs' Beats 'Cowboys & Aliens' on Friday

July 29:
Sony Pictures

The 3D toon grosses $13.3 million, while "Cowboys" grosses $13 million; Steve Carell-Ryan Gosling comedy "Crazy Stupid Love" off to a solid start.

In a surprise twist, kids pic The Smurfs edged past Jon Favreau’s big-budget Cowboys & Aliens to win the Friday box office race, leaving open the possibility that the 3D toon could steal the weekend crown.

Sony’s Smurfs grossed an estimated $13.3 million, while DreamWorks and Universal’s Cowboys grossed a $13 million after appealing mostly to older moviegoers.

Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested Cowboys would easily win the weekend with a gross north of $40 million. Now, the movie may only reach $36 million or $38 million. If Smurfs, benefiting from being the only fresh family title in the market, continues to overperform, it could reach the same mark.

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Coming in No. 3 at the domestic box office on Friday was Paramount and Marvel’s holdover Captain America: The First Avenger, which grossed $7.9 million on its second Friday, upping its domestic cume to $99.8 million.

The third new film of the weekend, Warner Bros.’ Steve Carell-Ryan Gosling comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love got off to a solid start, grossing $6.6 million on Friday. The PG-13 movie, receiving a B+ CinemaScore, is on track to gross $18 million or $19 million for the weekend.

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Cowboys, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, couldn’t have better pedigree. Stacey Snider and Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks oversaw production and co-financed the $163 million pic with Universal and Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment also produced the film.

But original stories are always a risk, not to mention mixing the Western and sci-fi genres. Westerns generally draw older moviegoers, and Cowboys has indeed been tracking best among males over 25, followed by males under 25, who are Favreau and sci-fi fans.

Cowboys grossed a soft $700,000 in midnight runs Thursday night, suggesting that younger fanboys weren’t rushing to see the film. Exit polling conducted Friday night confirmed that trend--a full 75% of the audience was over the age of 25, and 39%, over the age of 50.

Cowboys did lure more females than expected (43%). Pic received a B CinemaScore.

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So far, Cowboys is pacing a tad behind original event pic  Super 8, which grossed $13.1 million on its first Friday and $36.5 million for the weekend. The big difference? J.J. AbramsSuper 8 cost $55 million to make.

DreamWorks financed half of Cowboys’  $163 million budget, while Universal and Relativity Media each put up 25 percent.

Smurfs cost $110 million to produce, and is the latest entry in the CGI/live-action market. The pic received an A- CinemaScore, and A among moviegoers under the age of 18.

Based on the comic books and wildly popular 1980s television show, The Smurfs stars Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays and Hank Azaria. The voice cast is led by Jonathan Winters, Kate Perry and Anton Yelchin.

Sony believes Smurfs will have strong legs throughout August.