'2012' explodes at boxoffice

Disaster movie makes $65 million in opening weekend

'2012' storms foreign boxoffice

Moviegoers said give us the apocalypse now as Sony's end-of-the-world epic "2012" topped the weekend boxoffice with a heaping $65 million in opening domestic coin.

Directed by Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day"), the effects-filled actioner cost $200 million to produce. But with a $225 million worldwide haul from simultaneous openings in 105 foreign territories, the more than 2 1/2-hour tentpole delivered a planetary payout on that investment at the high end of pre-release projections.

Disney's 3D animated feature "A Christmas Carol" – another pricey event pic with a reported $180 million budget -- grabbed second place as the family title slid a measly 26% from week-earlier opening grosses to $22.3 million on the frame and $63.3 million in cumulative boxoffice. Some $3.1 million from high-grossing Imax 3D screens helped shape the leggy performance.

The session's only other wide opener -- Focus Features' British rock comedy "Pirate Radio" -- unspooled outside the top 10 with $2.9 million from 882 playdates.

"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" continued to impress as Lionsgate added 156 theaters for a total of 174 in the gritty drama's second outing and grossed $6.1 million, or a whopping $35,000 per venue. That was good for fourth place on the frame and pushed cume for the Lee Daniels-helmed pic to $8.9 million cume ahead of a scheduled expansion to about 600 locations on Friday.

Overture Films' George Clooney starrer "The Men Who Stare at Goats" dropped 51% in its sophomore session to $6.2 million in third place with a $23.3 million cume, while Universal's horror thriller "The Fourth Kind" slid 61% to $4.7 million in sixth place and a 10-day cume of $20.6 million. Warner Bros.' thriller "The Box" dropped 58% in its second weekend to $3.2 million in 10th place, with a $13.2 million cume.

Collectively, the weekend's top 10 grossers rung up $125 million, or 7% less than top performers in the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

In a limited bow, Fox's animated feature "Fantastic Mr. Fox" fetched $260,000 from two New York theaters and two in L.A. That represented a foxy $65,000 per venue ahead of a nationwide expansion of the PG-rated pic on Nov. 25.

"It's a phenomenal opening," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson said. "We drew in families for matinees and families as well as adults for other performances. So that positions the film well for an expansion over Thanksgiving, when we will broaden in wide release as an all-audience film."

The voice cast in the Wes Anderson-directed pic includes Clooney and Meryl Streep.

Oscilloscope opened the Woody Harrelson-Samantha Morton starrer "The Messenger" with four playdates in New York and Washington and grossed $50,000, or an auspicious $12,500 per engagement ahead of a scheduled 15-market expansion Friday.

Arthouse Films debuted biopic "William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe" in single locations in New York and Boston and grossed $10,106, or a sturdy $5,053.

IFC Films bowed the drama "Uncertainty" on a single New York screen, fetching an encouraging $12,235.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Apparition crime drama "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" added 146 theaters for a total 251 and grossed $1 million, or a sturdy $4,015 per venue, with a $2.5 million cume.

And Sony Pictures Classics drama "An Education" added 37 playdates for a total of 120 to gross $735,652, or a pleasing $6,130 per engagement, with a $3.3 million cume.

"2012" opened roughly similar to Emmerich's personal best debut with "The Day After Tomorrow," which rung up $68.7 million over the first three days of 2004's four-day Memorial Day weekend en route to registering $186.7 million in total domestic boxoffice. The helmer's last pic -- 2008's "10,000 B.C." -- bowed with $35.9 million and grossed $94.8 million overall domestically.

Opening audiences for "2012" skewed 52% male, with 55% of patrons aged 25 or older.

"I felt the Earth move," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "Audiences responded to the amazing images they were seeing throughout the film's campaign. This movie really did raise the bar, even for Roland Emmerich."

Produced by Working Title, "Pirates" totes a $28.3 million international cume from its release last summer in the U.K. and elsewhere. Focus distribution boss Jack Foley called the pic's domestic bow "disappointing" but expressed hope adult support will prove leggy.

"We are hopeful that its Boomer patrons are spreading positive word-of-mouth, which will bolster the awareness and boxoffice results of the film through the midweek and especially into next weekend," Foley said.

Looking ahead, three films open in wide release next weekend. Summit Entertainment sends out vampire-romance sequel "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," Sony unspools the animated feature "Planet 51" and Warner Bros. bows Sandra Bullock starrer "The Blind Side." Online ticket service Fadango said Sunday that "New Moon" has been its hottest advance-tickets seller ever.