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Marking another blow for Hollywood’s tentpole strategy, New Line’s $20 million horror pic The Conjuring raced to a $41.5 million North American debut, while R.I.P.D. limped to a seventh-place finish despite costing at least $130 million to produce.
The Conjuring, directed by horror maestro James Wan, did far better than expected, scoring the top opening ever for an original R-rated horror pic, and is a major win for New Line and Warner Bros. The movie, earning an A- CinemaScore, stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as paranormal investigators who help a family terrorized by a dark force. Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor also star in the film, based on a true story.
“It show that fresh material attracts audiences in a big way. The real-life aspect makes it look cool and the movie scares the stuffing out of you,” said WB executive vp domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein.
The Conjuring helps soothe nerves after WB and Legendary’s big-budget miss Pacific Rim, which tumbled 57 percent its second weekend to $16 million for a troubled domestic total of $68.2 million. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, the fanboy tentpole is doing somewhat better overseas, grossing $34.8 million from 48 markets over the weekend for an international total of $110.3 and worldwide cume of $178.5 million.
R.I.P.D., from Universal, opened to a dismal $12.8 million domestically and will likely lose Universal tens of millions. Robert Schwentke‘s action-comedy is the summer’s latest big-budget bomb, and stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as deceased police officers who must protect the living from evil spirits who refuse to move on. The pic, drawing comparisons to Men in Black, earned a C+ CinemaScore.
Universal — on course for its best year ever — can certainly withstand a financial hit, considering the profits it will earn from summer megahits Fast & Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2. And once the studio saw that R.I.P.D. was in trouble, it scaled back its marketing spend.
Even as R.I.P.D. prepared its own eulogy, Universal celebrated reaching $1 billion in domestic ticket sales over the weekend, reaching the milestone faster than in any a previous year. WB also crossed $1 billion in domestic box office revenue for the 13th year in a row.
R.I.P.D. wasn’t the weekend’s only disappointment as both Turbo and Red 2 underperformed in their domestic openings.
Turbo, facing an unprecedented glut of animated product, grossed $21.5 million for the weekend to come in No. 3 and $31.2 million for the five-day stretch (it opened on Wednesday). For the weekend itself, Turbo lost to Despicable 2.
From DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox, Turbo marks one of the lowest domestic openings for a DWA title and came in just behind the $32.3 million earned by box office dud Rise of the Guardians in its five-day debut last November. Rise of the Guardians resulted in an $87 million write-down for DWA.
Turbo is, however, off to a strong start overseas, grossing $22.6 million from 28 international territories representing 25 percent of the marketplace.
Despicable 2 came in No. 2 in its third weekend, grossing a sensational $25.1 million for a domestic total of $276.1 million. Overseas, it took in another $35.4 million from 50 territories, pushing its international total north of $300 million to $308.4 million and worldwide total to $584.6 million. Globally, it was No. 1 for the weekend.
Turbo opens only two weeks after Despicable Me 2 and four weeks after Monsters University. Fox is counting on Turbo to have strong legs, noting that it received a glowing A CinemaScore and an A+ from moviegoers under age 18, although it will face competition from Sony’s The Smurfs 2 in two weeks, while Disney’s Planes hits theaters two weeks after that.
“Our great exits should ensure a long, successful run,” said Fox president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson. “To be fair, I think the crowded marketplace is a contributing factor to where we opened at, but is not indicative of where we end up.”
Turbo, directed by David Soren and costing $135 million to produce, is about an ordinary garden snail whose dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500 comes true. Reynolds voices the title role; Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg, Michael Pena, Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez and Samuel L. Jackson also lend their voices. DWA is playing up the fact that Turbo is an original story.
Adult crowd pleaser Red 2 opened to $18.5 million to come in No. 5, not enough to match the $21.7 million opening of Red in 2010. Summit made a major gamble in moving the sequel to the summer; Red launched in October. The follow-up cost $84 million to produce and earned a B+ CinemaScore.
“Moviegoing is certainly younger and more impulsive this time of year. I do think we will catch up with Red, and we’ll have great midweek business as adults turn out,” said Summit’s distribution chief Richie Fay.
Overseas, the sequel took in $7.6 million from its first 11 markets, soaring in South Korea with a $5.2 million opening.
Red 2‘s impressive cast includes Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The movie earned a B+ CinemaScore.
Schwentke directed 2010’s Red, which grossed nearly $200 million worldwide; Dean Parisot is in the director’s chair this time.
There were a handful of high-profile openings at the specialty box office, including documentaries The Act of Killing and Blackfish, both of which got off to impressive starts. Distributed in the U.S. by Drafthouse Film, Act of Killing took in $28,067 from one theater, nabbing the top documentary location average of the year so far.
Blackfish, about the orca Tilikum, responsible for three deaths at SeaWorld, debuted to a strong $66,500 from four theaters for a location average of $16,625. Magnolia acquired U.S. rights to the film at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Ryan Gosling starrer Only God Forgives and Girl Most Likely, headlining Kristen Wiig, had less to brag about, at least theatrically.
From Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate, Girl Most Likely debuted to $736,005 from 353 screens for a so-so location average of $2,085.
Only God Forgives, from TWC’s Radius label, took in $315,000 from 78 locations for a theater average of $4,039. The drama, reteaming director Nicolas Winding Refn with his Drive star, made up ground on VOD platforms, including becoming the No. 2 title on iTunes.
Among holdovers, The Weinstein Co.’s Fruitvale Station showed the makings of an indie hit as it expanded into a total of 34 theaters in its second weekend, grossing $742,272 for a location average of $21,832 and cume of $1.3 million.
And Radius’ 20 Feet From Stardom became the year’s top grossing documentary over the weekend as its cume grew to $2.4 million.
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