This weekend, Greek Gods conquered the North American box office as the 3D adventure epic Immortals opened at number one while Adam Sandler’s new comedy Jack and Jill and two-time chart-topper Puss in Boots fought over second place with virtually identical grosses. The new FBI biopic J. Edgar opened more like a Clint Eastwood film than a Leonardo DiCaprio one, settling into fifth place in its first weekend. Overall the marketplace saw healthy double digit gains over last year, thanks in part to the Veterans Day holiday falling on Friday instead of Thursday this year. Multiplex activity is set to go even higher very soon with the Twilight juggernaut right around the corner.
Relativity Media shot to number one with Immortals, which bowed to an estimated $32M from 3,112 theaters for a muscular $10,283 average. It was the third biggest opening this year for an R-rated film — and best for a non-sequel — trailing The Hangover Part II and Paranormal Activity 3, which debuted to $85.9M and $52.6M, respectively. Opening above industry expectations, Immortals received mixed reviews from critics but connected with action and fantasy fans who powered the opening day Friday to $15M. Saturday sales dropped a sharp 32% from Veterans Day and Sunday is estimated to slide by another 33% to $6.8M.
Original action films that are not part of an existing brand like James Bond or The Lord of the Rings rarely open above $30M during the football season when millions of males are occupied on Saturdays and Sundays. Studio research showed that the stylishly violent war epic played to an audience that was 60% male, and 75% was under 35. 70% of the business ($22.4M) came from non-white audiences while the CinemaScore grade was a B. 3D was a popular option for Immortals as 66% of the grosses came from the higher-priced format.
Produced for $75M, Immortals also opened overseas in 35 territories this weekend including Japan, Germany, the U.K., China, and Russia grossing an estimated $36M for a global debut of $68M.
If estimates hold, Adam Sandler’s latest laughfest Jack and Jill will open in second place with an estimated $26M, a figure that rival studios believe is too optimistic. The Sony release averaged $7,563 from 3,438 theaters and did not make it into the $30-40M range that the funnyman usually finds himself in with broad comedies. Friday started with $9.9M, Saturday eased 2% to $9.6M while Sunday is estimated to drop by only 32% to an estimated $6.5M. That would be a small Sunday drop for a Sandler comedy during the football season, although this PG-rated pic is hoping for family business which would yield a stronger-than-usual Sunday performance.
Critics slammed Jack and Jill with some of their harshest words of any film this year. Moviegoers were only somewhat satisfied with what they got as the pic got a B CinemaScore grade. Studio research showed that the childish humor played broadly as the audience was 52% female, 57% 25 and older, with 53% being families. Despite the atrocious reviews, Jack could continue to bring in respectable grosses as no new mainstream comedies will open over the next three weeks.
Following close behind according to estimates but hoping to finish in second place when final figures are tallied on Monday was two-time box office leader Puss in Boots, which dipped only 23% to an estimated $25.5M. The 3D toon smashed the $100M mark on Saturday in its 16th day of release and has grossed a stellar $108.8M to date. Tougher competition will start on Friday with the arrival of the rival 3D animated kidpic Happy Feet Two followed five days later by The Muppets, but a final domestic haul of $160M or more still seems likely. Paramount has had a red hot year in 2011 and has now seen eight of its eleven wide releases join the century club, while the ones that didn’t have performed well too.
Only $500,000 separated Jack and Jill and Puss in Boots according to studio estimates. Final numbers to be released on Monday will include actual sales figures for Sunday and could see the two films switch positions, making Jack that rare broad comedy from Sandler that opens outside of the top two positions.
Universal’s action-comedy Tower Heist fell a moderate 45% to an estimated $13.2M in its second weekend and has raised its ten-day tally to a decent $43.9M. The $85M Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy vehicle could end its domestic run at about $70M meaning a strong overseas run will be needed.
Clint Eastwood’s latest film debuted in fifth place. The biopic J. Edgar headlined by Leonardo DiCaprio bowed to an estimated $11.5M from 1,910 locations for a solid $6,005 average. The opening was on par with the nationwide debut of the director’s last film Hereafter which opened to $12M and a $5,510 average in October of last year on its way to a disappointing $32.7M final. Reviews were mixed with many top ones being negative and audiences also were not too thrilled as the R-rated drama earned only a B grade from CinemaScore. J. Edgar platformed in seven theaters in top markets on Wednesday to get a jump on the weekend, putting the total at $11.6M for Warner Bros.
The stoner threequel A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas suffered an understandable 55% drop in its second weekend collecting an estimated $5.9M putting the ten-day tally at $23.2M. Produced for only $20M, the Warner Bros. release fared a bit better than its predecessor, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, which tumbled 59% in its sophomore frame, although it faced the opening of the superhero juggernaut Iron Man, which stole the attention of young men. Christmas looks set to finish with about $35M putting it just behind Guantanamo‘s $38.1M but ahead of the $18.2M of 2004’s Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.
Fox’s sci-fi thriller In Time declined by 45% in its third round to an estimated $4.2M giving Fox $30.7M in 17 days. Paramount’s horror hit Paranormal Activity 3 joined the century club with its estimated $3.6M weekend, off 57%, putting the low-cost $5M chiller at $100.8M and counting. It should finish near the $107.9M of the first film in the highly profitable series.
The studio’s dance remake Footloose followed with an estimated $2.7M, down 39%, for a $48.9M sum. Rounding out the top ten was Hugh Jackman’s boxing hit Real Steel which dropped 42% to an estimated $2M and $81.7M to date for Disney. The robot flick is now the actor’s second-biggest non-Wolverine hit after 2004’s Van Helsing, which grossed $120.1M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $126.6M which was up a healthy 18% from last year when Megamind remained in the top spot with $29.1M; and up 2% from 2009 when 2012 opened at number one with $65.2M.
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