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A jam-packed marquee resulted in decidedly mixed results for four new films jockeying for position at the North American box office.
Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium — the latest in a string of dystopian epics — won the crowded race, even thought it opened lower than expected, taking in $30.5 million.
Sony and MRC had hoped the Matt Damon and Jodie Foster starrer would clear $35 million and match the $37.4 million debut of Blomkamp’s breakout hit District 9, which opened in mid-August 2009. It received a B CinemaScore overall (it did receive an A- from moviegoers aged 18-24).
Sony, under pressure from shareholder activist Daniel Loeb to improve its box office fortunes, says the movie still turned in a great performance and that its exit scores matched those for District 9.
“To hit the $30 million mark is very good considering the competitive landscape and all these new movies coming in. We love being in the Neill Blomkamp business. He’s a great storyteller, and this film will be a big success for the studio,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution.
VIDEO: New ‘Elysium’ Featurette Goes Inside Matt Damon’s Sci-Fi Epic
Blomkamp became an overnight sensation with District 9, although that movie cost $30 million to produce, while Sony paid $115 million for worldwide rights to Elysium, which was packaged, financed and produced by MRC (It’s not clear what the exact budget was). Males made up a majority of the audience (61 percent).
Sony expects Elysium to be a sizeable player overseas, where it opened in its first 17 territories over the weekend, earning a promising $10.9 million for a worldwide total of $41.4 million. Russia led with $6.8 million, 46 percent ahead of District 9. The film took in $1.7 million in Taiwan, the biggest opening for a Damon film and seven times the opening of District 9. It will roll out across the rest of the world over the next several weeks.
The movie did huge business in IMAX theaters, grossing $6.1 million worldwide, a record for August. In the U.S., 328 IMAX screens turned in $4.9 million — or 16 percent of the total gross.
Sony took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots at the global box office between The Smurfs 2 and Elysium, respectively, with $44.1 million and $41.4 million in ticket sales.
Smurfs 2, facing competition in North America from Planes, declined 46 percent in its second weekend to $9.5 million for a domestic total of $46.6 million and coming in No. 6. Overseas, the family film crossed the $100 million mark, grossing $34.6 million from 65 markets for a foreign total of $110 million and worldwide total of $156.6 million.
Among the four new films rolling out domestically, New Line’s We’re the Millers was arguably the big winner. Opening midweek, the R-rated comedy grossed $26.6 million for the three-day weekend to come in No. 2, and a hearty $38 million for the Wednesday to Sunday stretch.
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, We’re the Millers stars Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Will Poulter as a fake family who smuggle marijuana out of Mexico. Ed Helms also stars in the film, which benefited from an A- CinemaScore.
On Friday, it looked as if Disney’s Cars spinoff Planes would break the recent animation curse and hit $30 million in its debut, but no such luck. Battling the continued glut of family product, both Planes and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters suffered.
Planes, coming in No. 3 and earning an A- CinemaScore, opened to $22.5 million. Disney is in good shape financially, since the film cost a modest $50 million to produce, far less than most animated studio films. It originally was intended for a direct-to-DVD release.
Disney executive president of distribution Dave Hollis said there are seven weeks before the next family film enters the marketplace, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. “We have an all-audience picture that will be the primary option for families until then,” he said.
VIDEO: ‘Elysium’s’ Faran Tahir on the Film’s Hot-Button Issues
Pixar did not produce Planes; rather, it was the brainchild of DisneyToon Studios, Disney’s direct-to-DVD unit. Dane Cook leads the voice cast of Planes, playing the role of Dusty Crophopper, who dreams of being able to fly at high speeds.
Like We’re the Millers, Fox 2000’s Sea of Monsters also opened midweek, grossing a tepid $23.5 million for the Wednesday to Sunday stretch, including a weekend gross of $14.6 million. The sequel, costing a pricey $90 million to make thanks to a big special-effects budget, came in well behind the $38.7 million earned by the first Percy Jackson over the long President’s Day weekend in 2010.
Based on the bestselling YA series by Rick Riordan, Sea of Monsters earned a B+ CinemaScore, same as the first film. Thor Freudenthal directed this time out, with Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario return in the top roles.
Sea of Monsters hopes to be a stronger earner overseas, where it bowed to $9.8 million from only six markets.
Rounding out the top five at the North American box office was another male-fueled film, Universal’s Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg action pic 2 Guns, which fell nearly 59 percent in its second weekend to $11.1 million for a domestic total of $48.5 million.
Coming in No. 7 in North America was The Wolverine, which dipped 62 percent in its third weekend to $8 million. The 20th Century Fox tentpole has earned $112 million in North America.
Internationally, the Hugh Jackman superhero pic is destined to be one of the top X-Men films of all time, if not the biggest. For the weekend, Wolverine grossed $18 million from 66 markets for a foreign total of $196 million, bigger than X-Men Origins: Wolverine (195.3 million) and X2: X-Men United ($193 million).
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