'Inception' steals weekend with $60.4 mil

'Sorcerer's' disappointing debut lands at No. 3 with $17.4 mil

Moviegoers gave a rousing reception to Warner Bros.' fantasy thriller "Inception" during the weekend, as the Christopher Nolan-helmed Leonardo DiCaprio starrer took in an estimated $60.4 million in opening domestic boxoffice.

That was on the far high side of prerelease projections, validating the studio's gutsy gambit of releasing an adult-targeting tentpole in summer. By contrast, Disney's Jerry Bruckheimer-produced adventure fantasy "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" drew a big Bronx cheer.

"Sorcerer's" conjured just $17.4 million in third place on the weekend, with $24.5 million in cumulative boxoffice since a Wednesday bow. The pricey pic's disappointing debut continues a recent -- and rare -- losing streak for Bruckheimer, following lackluster outings with his May opener "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," last July's "G-Force" and February 2009's "Confessions of a Shopaholic."

Elsewhere, Universal's 3D animated feature "Despicable Me" fell a modest 42% from its opening tally to register $32.7 million in second place and a 10-day cume of $118.4 million.

Fox horror thriller "Predators" dropped a big 73% from its week-earlier bow to post $6.8 million in eighth place, with a $40.1 million cume.

Rocky Mountain's kids musical "Standing Ovation" bowed in a barely wide 625 locations but appears tagged for a quick detour to DVD bins after fetching just $361,875, or a thin $575 per site.

Collectively, the weekend top 10 rang up $166 million, or 9% more than top performers in the same frame last year, Rentrak said.

In a notable expansion, Focus Features' dramedy "The Kids Are All Right" added 31 playdates for a total 38 to gross $1 million. That represented a stellar $27,036 per engagement, as cume climbed to $1.8 million.

Fox Searchlight stretched its comedy "Cyrus" by 246 locations for a total 446 to fetch $1.1 million, or a so-so $2,410 per site, as cume reached $5.1 million.

Swedish crime thriller "The Girl Who Played with Fire" from Music Box and Alliance added 56 theaters for a total 141 to capture $662,379, or a rewarding $4,698 per venue, with $2 million in cume.

Co-financed by Legendary Pictures, "Inception" co-stars Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Production costs on the critically hailed pic totaled at least $160 million.

Rated PG-13, "Inception" drew opening audiences skewing 56% male, with 75% of patrons under age 35. Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said the film's big opening underscores the sizeable fan base for its director, whose summer 2008 Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight" took in $533.3 million domestically.

"Chris Nolan is a brand unto himself now," Fellman said. "Leonardo DiCaprio is also to be credited, and the picture is unique in a summer of sequels. With all of the so-called popcorn films out of the way, I think things are really set up for us to continue to play for a long, long time."

A record 197 high-grossing Imax screens represented just 5% of the pic's total 3,792 playdates but accounted for 12% of overall boxoffice for "Inception."

"We sure love Chris Nolan," Imax Film Entertainment topper Greg Foster enthused.

Imax venues rung up $65 million from "The Dark Knight."

"Sorcerer's" was directed by Jon Turteltaub -- Bruckheimer's collaborator on two "National Treasure" pics -- and stars Nicolas Cage as the titular sorcerer who recruits an everyday guy as his apprentice in a role played by Jay Baruchel ("She's Out of My League"). Alfred Molina co-stars as the sorcerer's arch-nemesis.

The PG-rated pic was produced for an estimated $150 million and drew opening audiences whose demographic profile suggests that despite a pricey marketing campaign "Sorcerer's" failed to attract younger moviegoers preoccupied with "Despicable" and other recently released family films. Audiences for "Sorcerer's" were comprised 54% of males, with 55% of patrons aged 55 or older and more than half of its too-thin support coming from date-movie couples.

"One of the hardest things to do is to pinpoint why something didn't work," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "For whatever reason, it didn't connect."

Press reports cited "Sorcerer's" as the first theatrical campaign overseen by recently installed Disney marketing president M.T. Carney. A Disney insider said Carney contributed to "Sorcerer's" marketing but was not on board for its conception.

Looking ahead, two pics open wide on Friday: Fox debuts G-rated comedy "Ramona and Beezus," while Sony bows the PG-13 action thriller starring Angelina Jolie, "Salt."