'Tron: Legacy' Wins Soft Box Office; James L. Brooks' 'How Do You Know' Disappoints

Tron - Garrett Hedlund

Tron - Garrett Hedlund

'Yogi Bear' debuts at No. 2 as awards frontrunners 'Fighter' and 'Swan' also impress, but all-star 'How Do You Know' falters at No. 8.

Disney's 3D Tron: Legacy sped to the top of the domestic box office in opening to $43.6 million from 3,451 theaters, but the weekend was soft overall and studio titles will need strong holiday biz to come out ahead.

Overseas, Tron rolled out in about half of all territories, grossing $23 million for a worldwide debut of $66.6 million. Imax theaters supplied a record proportion of the gross, including 25% in the U.S.

Warner Bros.' 3D family entry Yogi Bear opened to $16.7 million from 3,515 domestically to place No. 2. The CG/live-action hybrid had been expected to open at $20 million.

There was no shortage of 3D movies. Coming in No. 3 was 20th Century Fox and Walden Media's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which fell 48% to $12.4 million from 3,555 runs for a new domestic cume of $42.8 million. Overseas, Narnia won the weekend with $29.9 million for a worldwide gross of $166.8 million.

While Tron and Yogi hope for strong midweek traffic as the Christmas session gets into full swing, there's much less hope for Sony's How Do You Know, which opened to a paltry $7.6 million from 2,483 theaters.

The film, directed by James L. Brooks and costing $100 million to make, with rebates, placed No. 8.

Sony didn't even try to hide its disappointment over the fact that How Do You Know -- with an A-list cast led by Reese Witherspoon -- was beat out by Paramount/Relativity Media's  The Fighterand Fox Searchlight's Black Swan, both made outside the studio system and for far less money.

The Fighter, which Relativity fully financed and produced, grossed $12.2 million as it expanded to 2,503 theaters after opening the weekend before in N.Y. and Los Angeles. The boxing drama, distributed and marketed by Paramount, came in a pleasing No. 4 and earned a A- rating from CinemaScore.

After a less-than-hoped-for opening, Sony/GK Films' holdover The Tourist fell 50% in its second weekend to $8.7 million for a cume of $30.8 million. It placed No. 5.

Disney's Tangled virtually tied with The Tourist in its fourth weekend for a domestic cume of $127.8 million.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan came in No. 7, grossing $8.3 million from only 959 theaters. Psycho-sexual drama is playing strongest on the East Coast, but did unexpectedly well in markets including Miami.

Biggest segment of Black Swan's audience was between the ages of 18-35. The film is playing more evenly among the genders than expected, with females making up 53% or 54% of the audience, according to anecdotal evidence.

Fighter and Black Swan are both awards favorite, as is the Weinstein Co.'s The King's Speech, which scored the highest per screen average of the weekend. King's Speech grossed $1.1 million as it expanded into a total of 43 theaters for a location average of $25,000 and cume of $2.9 million.

All three pictures were buoyed by multiple Golden Globe nominations, announced last week. The Tourist also scored top acting nods. King's Speech led with seven nominations.

Lionsgate's awards contender Rabbit Hole saw a moderate opening, grossing $55,000 from five locations in N.Y., L.A. and Toronto for a per screen average of $11,000, in line with the company's opening weekend numbers for Away From Her.

ATO Pictures' awards offering Casino Jack grossed $35,000 in its debut on seven screens in N.Y. and L.A. for a screen average of $5,000.

The refrain was the same Sunday as distributors discussed the crowded pack of holiday films: The true test comes over the next two weeks, as kids are sprung from school and adults wrap up Christmas preparations.

Tron's challenge will be to lure younger fanboys, since the vast majority of opening weekend moviegoers were between the ages of 18 and 55, many of whom were diehard fans of the original. About 55% of the audience was couples.

"All the fans of the first movie are bringing a girlfriend or wife to share the experience with," Disney worldwide president of distribution Chuck Viane said. "But the blend of the audience will get younger."

A year ago, Fox's Avatar debuted to $77 million, but Disney had no illusions that Tron could match that number, since it is fueled by fanboys and less an all-audience title.

But Tron was an expensive proposition for Disney, costing nearly $170 million to produce. Event pic drew a B+ from CinemaScore, although younger audiences gave it an A-.

Domestically, Imax theaters rang up $10.3 million -- or 25% of the entire Tron gross. That's a record proportion for the large-format exhibitor.

"Disney's Tron and the Imax experience clearly resonated with our core audience," Imax Theaters' Greg Foster said.

Yogi Bear drew a B CinemaScore. Warner exec vice president of distribution Jeff Goldstein said the picture will begin benefiting as more and more kids are out of school this week. While theater traffic lightens up Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, family attendance shoots up after that.

"From Christmas Day forward is when we really take off," Goldstein said.

Yogi will have to compete with 20th Century Fox's 3D family pic Gulliver's Travels, which debuts Dec. 25.

If Tron drew an older audience than expected on opening weekend, The Fighter drew a healthy number of females, who represented 53% of all those buying tickets. A full 87% of the audience was over the age of 25.

Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said The Fighter -- toplining Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams -- is poised to have lasting playability, taking into account the film's great reviews and CinemaScore.

"These are the kinds of movies opening over Christmas that ultimately play to six, seven or eight multiples," Moore said.

The poorly reviewed How Do You Know played heavily to women, or 60%. Audience also was distinctly older, with 55% over the age of 30.

"The opening is disappointing. Everyone worked hard on this film and really believed in it," Sony worldwide president of distribution Rory Bruer said.

Sony may be ending 2010 on a sour note, but the rest of the year was otherwise strong for the studio in terms of box office performance.

Weekend was down about 3% from the same frame last year.