Box Office: '300: Rise of an Empire' Slays Competition With $45.1 Million Debut

UPDATED: Facing a crowded marketplace for family fare, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" opens to $32.5 million; "The Grand Budapest Hotel" makes history at the specialty box office, while Oscar best picture winner "12 Years a Slave" sees nice bump.

Exactly seven years after Zack Snyder's 300 took the box office by storm, Warner Bros. and Legendary's 3D sequel 300: Rise of an Empire topped the North American box office with a solid $45.1 million debut, easily enough to beat the $32.5 million debut of family entry Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

However, Rise of an Empire opened notably behind the record-breaking $70.9 million domestic debut of the first 300 on the same weekend in 2007, but it's still a promising start, considering changes in the marketplace in the intervening years (namely, the flight of male moviegoers) and the fact that Snyder didn't direct the sequel.

While it is trailing 300 domestically, Rise of an Empire is pacing ahead of the original film overseas, where it opened to a massive $87.8 million internationally from 58 markets for a worldwide total of $132.9 million. Russia led overseas with $9.2 million, followed by France with $7.2 million, South Korea with $6.5 million and Brazil with $5.8 million (the biggest March opening of all time).
In North America, Rise of an Empire appealed far more to females than the first film (38 percent versus 29 percent). A large chunk of the audience was between the ages of 25 and 34 (30 percent). And in a big win for 3D, 63 percent of the box office came from 3D screens. Overall, the movie received a B CinemaScore.

STORY: The Making of an Impossible '300' Sequel

Producers Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton reteamed to make the R-rated ancient epic alongside Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann. Warners and Legendary co-financed the $110 million sequel.

Warners executive vice president of distribution Jeff Goldstein said the action audience turned out in a big way for Rise of an Empire. In terms of the difference between the opening of 300 and the sequel, Goldstein said, "300 was lightning in a bottle. This is a different property, with a different cast and a different director."

Directed by Noam Murro, Rise of an Empire stars Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green and is set during the second Persian invasion of Greece. Stapleton, who plays a Greek general, hasn't been available to do prerelease press for Rise of an Empire because of an accident in which he suffered a concussion, forcing his new Cinemax primetime drama Strike Back to go on hiatus.

From DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox, Mr. Peabody & Sherman came in No. 2. The time-travel adventure, scoring a pleasing A CinemaScore, was hampered by the ongoing strength of The Lego Movie, which placed No. 4 in its fifth weekend with $11 million (Lego has now grossed $225 million domestically).

Internationally, where it began rolling out several weeks ago, Peabody took in another $21 million from 52 markets for a foreign total of $66 million and worldwide cume of $98.5 million.

Mr. Peabody is based on the characters from Peabody's Improbable History, a segment airing on the hit 1960s television series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The film's star is a genius talking dog who cares for a human boy.

"With spring holidays are ahead of us, and terrific exit polls, Peabody & Sherman will be entertaining audiences for some time to come," said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson, noting that the film was up a strong 81 percent on Saturday as families turned out.

Directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King), Peabody cost $145 million to make and has already earned $40 million in select markets overseas where it rolled out early. The voice cast is led by Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Stephen Tobolowsky, Mel Brooks, Leslie Mann and Stanley Tucci.

Alex Schwartz and Denise Nolan Cascino produced Peabody.

Elsewhere, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel made history in nabbing the top location average of all time for a live-action title. The Fox Searchlight film, opening in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, earned $800,000 for a theater average of $200,000, besting The Master's $147,262 location average. Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom posted an opening weekend average of $130,749 in May 2012.

Budapest Hotel is also an early hit overseas, where it took in another $6.2 million over the weekend in nine markets for an international total of $10 million. The film scored the top opening ever for an Anderson film in the U.K., Germany, Austria and Belgium.

 STORY: Is 'Divergent' Star Shailene Woodley the Next Jennifer Lawrence?

Searchlight scored a second win over the weekend with Oscar best picture winner 12 Years a Slave, which expanded into more than 1,000 theaters following last weekend's Academy Awards ceremony. The slavery drama placed No. 9 with $2.2 million, a 123 percent jump. 12 Years' domestic total through Sunday is $53.1 million.

Among holdovers in the top 10, Non-Stop fell only 47 percent in its second weekend to $15.4 million. The Liam Neeson action-thriller, placing No. 3, has earned $52.1 million domestically.

Christian film Son of God, placing No. 5, fell a steep 61 percent in its second weekend to $10 million. The film's total is $41.5 million.