'Inception' midnight screenings bag $3 mil

First weekend projected to produce about $50 mil

Almost 2,000 movie theaters programming midnight Thursday performances of Warner Bros.' Leonardo DiCaprio starrer "Inception" collected an estimated $3 million, as the Christopher Nolan-helmed fantasy thriller begins a first weekend projected to produce about $50 million in domestic boxoffice.

Though no kind of record, the hefty witching hour coin supports the notion that "Inception" can build on broadly positive critical reviews and post a tentpole-sized debut. Studios execs figure word of mouth among first-frame patrons then will propel a leggy run through subsequent sessions.

"Inception" will circulate in more than 3,800 locations through the remainder of the weekend. Rated PG-13, "Inception" co-stars Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard.

Production costs on the effects-filled pic have been estimated at $160 million.

Elsewhere in the theatrical marketplace, Disney's effects-filled family fantasy "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" conjured an estimated $3.2 million Thursday for a two-day cume of $7.1 million since unspooling Wednesday. Disney execs were hoping to fetch up to $30 million from the pic's five-day debut.

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, "Sorcerer's" was directed by Jon Turteltaub ("National Treasure") and stars Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina and Jay Baruchel ("She's Out of My League").

PG-rated "Sorcerer's" totes a negative cost of $150 million.