Box Office: 'Guardians,' 'TMNT' Beat 'If I Stay'; 'Sin City 2' Plummets

Faith-based high school football drama 'When the Game Stands Tall' opens to a solid $9 million

The penultimate weekend of summer ranged from lackluster to terrible for new offerings If I Stay and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, making way for Guardians of the Galaxy to reclaim the top spot at the North American box office as it became the top grossing film of the season.

Marvel Studios and Disney's Guardians took in $17.6 million in its fourth weekend for a domestic total of $251.9 million, eclipsing the $243.3 million grossed by Transformers: Age of Extinction. And it will soon become the top grossing film of the year in North America when it overtakes fellow Marvel title Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($259.8 million). Globally, Guardians has grossed $489 million to date.

Holdover Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles narrowly beat YA tearjerker If I Stay to take the No. 2 spot in its third weekend, grossing $16.8 million for a domestic total of $145.6 million and world haul of $238.8 million. If I Stay followed with $16.4 million.

The YA film adaptation, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, was widely expected to win the weekend with an $18 million-plus debut. However, prerelease tracking was once again wildly off (services had the film launching to $22 million).

From directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, Sin City 2 placed a dismal No. 8 with $6.5 million. The sequel opens nine years after the first film launched to more than $29 million (many are questioning whether the gap was too long).

The weekend's third new offering, inspirational high school football drama When the Game Stands Tall, enjoyed solid business, grossing $9 million to come in No. 5. From Sony's faith-based label Affirm, the movie was the only new title to see an uptick on Saturday, thanks to families.

If I Stay, earning an A- CinemaScore, was fueled by younger females, although they didn't turn out in force like they did for The Fault in Our Stars, which opened to a rousing $48 million earlier this summer. Females made up 77 percent of ticket buyers for If I Stay, while 61 percent were under the age of 25.

The good news for New Line and MGM is that If I Stay cost $11 million to make. New Line parent company Warner Bros. is distributing the film.

"I'd be a happy camper if I had an $11 million movie every day and opened to $16 million. We're in a good place, and it's a good investment," said Warners domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman.

If I Stay follows a 17-year-old girl whose family is killed in a car accident. The accident puts her in a coma, and as she wavers between life and death, she must decide if she'll fight to live for her boyfriend or join her family in death. R.J. Cutler is making his feature directorial debut on the adaptation of Gayle Forman's novel.

Sin City 2 earned a B- CinemaScore. Males made up 64 percent of the audience, while 78 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25. The sequel was originally supposed to open in October 2013.

Dimension Films and The Weinstein Co. are releasing the R-rated sequel, which was financed and produced by Rodriguez's Quick Draw Productions, Aldamisa, AR Films, Miramax and Solipsist. The movie sees returning castmembers Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Mickey Rourke. Although the producers wouldn't reveal the budget, the first Sin City cost $40 million, and some put the sequel's cost north of $60 million.

Tracking services, which have been notoriously unreliable this summer, showed Sin City 2 opening to $15 million or more.

"We stand behind the film, and Robert is a member of the Weinstein family. We never expected this level of rejection. It's like the ice bucket challenge without the good cause, and is a major disappointment," said TWC distribution chief Erik Lomis.

Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern, Michael Chiklis and Alexander Ludwig star in When the Game Stands Tall, which is based on the story of Northern California high school De La Salle's 151-game winning streak, and what happened after the team finally lost. The $10 million movie earned an A- CinemaScore.

Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said the company's grassroots campaign paid off. "The picture will be in theaters for a long time. It plays to the whole family," he said.

Fox's R-rated comedy Let's Be Cops fell less than 40 percent in its second weekend to place No. 4 with $11 million for a domestic total of $45.2 million.

The Weinstein Co. and Walden Media's YA film adaptation The Giver placed No. 6 in its second weekend, dipping 45 percent to $6.7 million for a total $24.1 million. The movie, which opened $12.3 million last weekend, was no doubt hurt by If I Stay.

Lionsgate and Millennium's The Expendables 3 took the No. 7 spot, tumbling 58 percent in its second outing to $6.6 million after a franchise worst $15.9 million debut. The movie, hurt by piracy and franchise fatigue, has earned a total $27.5 million in North America.

Here are the estimated top 10 films for the weekend of Aug. 22-24 at the domestic box office:

Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Weekend Total, Percentage Change, Cume

1. Guardians of the Galaxy, 4/3,371, Disney/Marvel, $17.6 million, -40%, $251.9 million

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 3/3,864, Paramount, $16.8 million, -41%, $145.6 million

3. If I Stay, 1/2,907, Warner Bros./New Line/MGM, $16.4 million

4. Let's Be Cops, 2/3,140, 20th Century Fox, $11 million, -38%, $45.2 million

5. When the Game Stands Tall, 1/2,673, Sony, $9 million

6. The Giver, 2/3,003, The Weinstein Co./Walden, $6.7 million, -45%, $24.1 million

7. The Expendables 3, 2/3,221, Lionsgate/Millennium, $6.6 million, -58%, $27.5 million

8. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, 1/2,894, The Weinstein Co./Dimension, $6.5 million

9. The Hundred-Foot Journey, 3/1,944, Disney/DreamWorks, $5.6 million, -22%, $32.8 million

10. Into the Storm, 3/2,375, Warner Bros./New Line, $3.8 million, -52%, $38.2 million

Twitter: @PamelaDayM