Weekend Box Office: 'Kingsman 2' Dethrones 'It' With $39M; 'Ninjago' Stumbles

Giles Keyte/Twentieth Century Fox
'Kingsman: The Golden Circle'

'Battle of the Sexes' and 'Victoria and Abdul' serve up solid scores at the specialty box office. Worldwide, 'It' approaches a terrifying $500 million.

It was a mixed bag at the box office over the weekend.

Director Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Golden Circle easily won the race in North America, grossing $39 million from 4,003 theaters. That was somewhat behind expectations, although the sequel still scored one of the best openings for the month of September, as well as came in ahead of the first Kingsman: The Secret Service ($36.2 million). Heading into the frame, however, tracking had suggested the cheeky spy action-comedy would clear $40 million.

The big letdown was Warner Bros.' animated family offering The Lego Ninjago Movie, which launched to a meek $21.2 million from 4,047 locations domestically. And, in a surprise upset, It beat Ninjago with a hefty $30 million in its third weekend.

Overseas, Golden Circle kicked off with $61 million — led by the U.K. with $11.1 million — for a global tally of $100 million. "Anytime you can open bigger than the first one, you are in good company. And it is because of Matthew Vaughn's creative, mad-cap genius," says Fox domestic distribution president Chris Aronson.

From 20th Century Fox and Vaughn's Marv Films, Kingsman 2 reteams the British director with his Secret Service stars Taron Egerton and Colin Firth. Newcomers to the budding franchise include Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal and Jeff Bridges. The movie wasn't as well-received by critics as Secret Service, though both films received the same grade from audiences (a B+ CinemaScore). Males made up the majority of ticket buyers (58 percent).

New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.' It followed at No. 2. The movie's domestic cume through Sunday stands at a massive $266.3 million, the top gross of all time for an R-rated horror film (not adjusting for inflation), and is fueling the biggest September in history. Internationally, It took in $38 million from 59 markets for global haul of $478 million.

Ninjago, coming in third, marks one of the lowest debuts for a studio animated film. Ninjago is based on the toy line popular with young boys and is considered to be a smaller property than The Lego Batman Movie, which launched to $53 million earlier this year, and The Lego Movie, which opened to an even bigger $69.1 million in 2014. Still, Ninjago had been expected to approach or top $30 million in its launch.

"It was a much more narrow property than we had hoped," said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution for Warners.

The weekend's third new nationwide player, Friend Request, fell flat with an estimated $2 million from 2,569 theaters for a seventh-place finish. Byron Allen's new Entertainment Studios, distributor of summer sleeper hit 47 Meters Down, is handling the film.

Back in the top five, CBS Films and Lionsgate's action-thriller American Assassin placed No. 4 with $6.2 million in its second weekend for a domestic total of $26.2 million.

Darren Aronofsky and Paramount's controversial film mother!, which received a rare F CinemaScore, fell a hefty 57 percent in its sophomore outing to $3.3 million for a cume of $13.4 million. The prestige horror-thriller, starring Jennifer Lawrence, ended the frame in a tie with Open Road's Home Again, starring Reese Witherspoon, for fifth place. (The order will be decided Monday morning, when final weekend numbers are released.)

Awards season commenced in earnest at the specialty box office. Battle of the Sexes and Victoria and Abdul both served up solid grosses, while Boston Marathon bombing drama Stronger had a tougher time in its launch. Like mother!, all three films played at one or more of the recent fall film festivals.

Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell as real-life tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, opened to an estimated $525,000 from 21 theaters for a theater average of $25,000. The Fox Searchlight movie was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine).

Stephen Frears' period royal biopic Victoria and Abdul, starring Judi Dench, opened in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles to $152,000 for a screen average of $38,000. Eddie Izzard stars opposite Dench in the Focus Features release.

Roadside Attractions and partner Lionsgate decided to take a more aggressive approach with Jake Gyllenhaal's Boston marathon drama Stronger, launching the David Gordon Green-directed film in 574 locations. Stronger  grossed a so-so $1.7 million, not that much more than fellow indie pic Wind River earned in its eighth weekend with $1.3 million. The Weinstein Co.'s Wind River has become one of the most successful specialty releases of the year, with a total $31.7 million to date.

Stronger earned an A- CinemaScore, while Battle of the Sexes nabbed an A.

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