Box Office Report: Brad Pitt's 'World War Z' Opens to $3.6 Million Thursday Night

Paramount Pictures
"World War Z"

UPDATED: Disney and Pixar's "Monsters University" also rolled out in select theaters Thursday, earning $2.6 million.

Paramount's zombie extravaganza World War Z grossed $3.6 million as it began its North American assault Thursday night, competing for attention with the final NBA championship game between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

Disney and Pixar's Monsters University, the weekend's other new entry, also began rolling out at 8 p.m., grossing $2.6 million. The long-awaited sequel is widely expected to top the North American box office chart with a debut in the $70 million-plus range. Earlier this year, Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful did $2 million in Thursday night business on its way to a $79.1 million weekend.

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Pointing out that World War Z is an original property, Paramount is projecting a $40 million to $45 million domestic debut for the movie, starring and produced by Brad Pitt. But other box office observers says the film, based on Max Brook's 2006 novel of the same name, is likely to open in the $45 million to $50 million range.

Earlier this summer, The Great Gatsby took in $3.3 million in midnight shows on its way to a $50.1 million North American opening.

In addition to Monsters U, World War Z will have to compete with holdover Man of Steel, which could earn anywhere from $50 million to $60 million in its second outing.

Thursday night's basketball game no doubt kept many moviegoers at home. Hollywood studios -- including Paramount -- blanketed the game with ads promoting their movies, including two spots for World War Z.

World War Z, rated PG-13, cost $190 million to produce after tax incentives. Extensive reshoots bumped up the budget, which was originally at $150 million. The pic, directed by Marc Forster, was initially slotted to open in December 2010.

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Overseas, World War Z is already scaring up strong business, scoring $5.7 million on Thursday and pacing in line with Christopher Nolan's original event pic Inception.

In South Korea, World War Z grossed $1.5 million, ahead of the $1.1 million earned a week ago by Man of Steel. Inception's opening-day gross in South Korea was $941,000.

World War Z grossed $1.1 million in Australia, in line with Inception. And the movie made the record books in Argentina, grossing $710,000, double the Man of Steel and the third-best Thursday of all time.