'Despicable' puts sizzle in b.o. at No. 1

'Eclipse' slips to 2; 'Predators' exceeds expectations at No. 3

Universal's 3D animated feature "Despicable Me" was feeling the love big time at the boxoffice during the weekend, turning moviegoers' ardor into a surprisingly heartfelt domestic bow estimated at $60.1 million.

Fox's R-rated horror thriller "Predators" also outpaced expectations with a $25.3 million debut in third place, as the summer marketplace continues to sizzle following a tepid start to the release season.

Elsewhere, Summit Entertainment threequel "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" fell a modest 49% from its first Friday-Sunday to fetch $33.4 million in second place during its second weekend and push cumulative boxoffice to $237 million through 12 days in release. Its immediate predecessor in the vampire-romance series – November opener "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" – rang up $235.7 million in its first dozen days as part of a $296.6 million domestic run.

Disney's 3D animated feature "Toy Story 3" collected $22 million in fourth place, pushing cume to a rarified $340.2 million through its fourth weekend. And Paramount's 3D live-action kids' fantasy "The Last Airbender" marked a three-day vs. three-day drop of 57% in its sophomore session for $17.2 million in fifth place and a $100.2 million cume through 11 days.

Collectively, the weekend top 10 rung up $191 million, or a whopping 44% more than top performers in the same frame last year, Rentrak said.

In a rocking limited bow, Focus Features unspooled the dramedy "The Kids Are All Right" – starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo – in three New York theaters, and one each in L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and Toronto to gross $504,888.

At $72,127 million per venue – the highest screen average so far this year – the opening went considerably better than all right. "Kids" has expansions set for the next two frames, heading into 11 new markets on Friday in broadening to 34 engagements.

" 'Kids' achieved impressive success with its opening," Focus distribution president Jack Foley said.

Music Box opened sequel crime thriller "The Girl Who Played with Fire" with 110 playdates and registered $965,488, or a hot $8,777 per engagement. Predecessor "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is still playing in 81 locations and grossed $133,252 to pile cume to $9.3 million, as Music Box preps plans for the Oct. 15 bow of trilogy-concluding "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest."

Among notable expansions this weekend, Fox Searchlight comedy "Cyrus" added 123 locations for a total 200 to fetch $1.4 million. The 10th place weekend performance represented a pleasing $6,875 per site, as "Cyrus" cume climbed to $3.5 million.

"It does look like independent film is working in the marketplace right now," Searchlight vp distribution Richard Shamban said.

"Wild Grass" -- a French-language romantic drama from Sony Pictures Classics and E1 -- sprouted 11 new playdates for a total 17 and reaped $45,055. That translated to $2,650 per engagement, with cume of $170,420.

And IFC documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" added four theaters for a total 155 in grossing $276,000, or a thin $2,400 per venue, as cume reached $2 million.

"Despicable Me" -- the tale of a meany named Gru and three orphan girls who adopt him -- was produced by animation vet Chris Meledandri, who's been birthing a new toon unit at Uni after several years of ani chores at Fox. Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud co-directed a voice cast featuring Steve Carell, Russell Brand and Jason Segel.

With just 1,551 3D locations included among the pic's 3,476 theaters, 3D venues accounted for a lower-than-usual 45% of the weekend haul.

But the outsized bow for "Despicable Me" – twice as big as some projected -- again dramatically underscored the impulsive bent of family moviegoers. Prospective family patrons often don't show up in prerelease tracking surveys but sure show up at multiplexes for pics that appeal.

Opening audiences for the PG-rated pic were comprised 55% of parents with kids under age 12.

"It would have been great if we had more 3D, but it didn't matter because the 2D was so robust," Universal distribution maven Nikki Rocco said.

Universal estimated "Despicable" production costs at $69 million.

Produced by Robert Rodriguez and directed by Nimrod Antal ("Armored"), "Predators" reboots a 1980s franchise launched with Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer "Predator" in 1987. Starring Adrien Brody, "Predators" also features Topher Grace, Alice Braga and Laurence Fishburne.

Opening audiences skewed 69% male, with 59% of patrons age 25 or older.

"Robert Rodriguez has a big following, and Nimrod Antal as well," Fox senior vp distribution Bert Livingston said. "People like the movie because it delivers, and we're thrilled with the number."

"Predators" totes an estimated $38 million negative cost.

Looking ahead, two big pics open in wide release during this week.

Disney unspools the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced adventure fantasy "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" on Wednesday, targeting family patrons. And Warner Bros. sends out the scifi fantasy "Inception" on Friday, keying on core support for director Christopher Nolan and topliner Leonardo DiCaprio.
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