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Providing a respite for females weary of male-action tentpoles, Paul Feig‘s Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy headliner The Heat is off to a stellar start at the Northern American box office for 20th Century Fox, grossing $13.6 million on Friday for a projected $39 million weekend.
The news was grim, however, for Roland Emmerich‘s White House Down, pairing Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. The $150 million film, from Sony, took in about $9 million Friday to only narrowly beat World War Z ($8.9 million).
World War Z is likely to pull ahead of White House Down on Saturday, putting White House Down at No. 4 for the weekend.
Disney and Pixar’s Monsters University is holding at No. 1 in its second weekend, grossing roughly $14.3 million Friday for an eight-day domestic cume of $139.1 million. By Sunday, its total is likely to hover around $170 million.
Heading into the weekend, The Heat and White House Down were each tracking to bow in the $30 million range. And on Friday night, each film earned an A- CinemaScore from moviegoers.
The Heat marks another major victory for McCarthy and Feig — who worked together on Bridesmaids — as well as for Bullock. To date, McCarthy’s top opening at the domestic box office is Identity Thief, which debuted earlier this year to $34.6 million.
Costing a modest $43 million to produce, the raunchy R-rated comedy stars Bullock as a strict FBI agent who is forced to team up with McCarthy’s rough-around-the-edges Boston street cop.
Feig’s Bridesmaids grossed $26.2 million in its domestic debut in May 2011. The film, which starred McCarthy along with Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, became a female-friendly comedy hit and has gone on to gross $288.4 million to date worldwide.
White House Down will turn into a financial headache for Sony unless it picks up the pace in North America, or does exceedingly well overseas. The A- CinemaScore is a a good sign in terms of strong word-of-mouth, but simply not enough moviegoers turned out Friday.
In the film, the president of the United States (Foxx) and a wannabe Secret Service agent (Tatum) team up after the White House is invaded by terrorists and the U.S. Capitol is destroyed.
One problem — White House Down comes out just three months after FilmDistrict’s White House-under-siege film Olympus Has Fallen played in theaters. Another is a glut of male-skewing action films in the market, including World War Z and Man of Steel.
White House Down looks the like lowest opening for an Emmerich-directed tentpole in recent times. In summer 2004, The Day After Tomorrow debuted to $68.7 million. Independence Day — which also featured the destruction of the White House — opened to $50.2 million in July 1996.
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