Exceeding expectations, the new kid-driven monster movie Super 8 shot straight to number one at the North American box office while fellow newcomer Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer failed to make a dent with a weak debut in seventh place. Most holdovers fared well as the overall marketplace fell from last year’s numbers, but only by a small margin.
Paramount scored a hit with its 1979-set sci-fi action-drama Super 8 which opened impressively with an estimated $37M this weekend from 3,379 theaters for a solid $10,950 average. The PG-13 film about a group of middle school kids trying to solve the mystery behind a train crash that unleashes a creature in their small town had no starpower and instead relied on the brand names of director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg who both worked overtime promoting the $50M production. The studio opened the film one day early in over 300 theaters on Thursday, including all 239 IMAX sites, and grossed an estimated $1M that day giving Super 8 a cume of $38M. IMAX accounted for 12% of the gross, or about $4.5M and a sparkling $19,000 average.
Reviews were mostly positive and the marketing campaign purposely held back much about the film so audiences would be intrigued and then experience all the excitement inside the theater. It was a risky move in today’s world of information overload, but it paid off. Opening day audiences gave the creature feature a B+ grade which was good, but not exceptional. But Saturday sales rose 15% from $12.2M to $14M. Even for an original film with no real built-in audience, it indicates a promising road ahead.
Super 8 played much older than most other films in the marketplace. The audience was 71% over 25 and 56% male which was similar to the crowd for the well-reviewed summer action entry Thor which played 72% over 25. The Abrams film did better with cross-gender appeal as Thor was 63% male. Older moviegoers do not rush out on the first weekend as much as younger ones do and with an original non-franchise film like Super 8, there could be substantial sales still to come.
Overseas, Super 8 had a limited bow in just nine markets with Australia being the only major one. The estimate was $6.7M and next weekend will see the first major overseas showing with numerous marketing opening including Russia and Korea.
Despite facing two new films with kids as their lead characters, the animated comedy Kung Fu Panda 2 held up very well dropping only 30% to an estimated $16.6M in its third weekend. The Paramount/DreamWorks title has now banked $126.9M in 18 days and could be headed past the $170M mark. Panda opened at number one in 17 international territories fueling a strong $56.5M offshore frame lifting the overseas gross to $205M and the global take to $331.9M. Top spot bows this weekend in the U.K., Mexico, and Brazil helped keep the global roll-out going and an amazing hold in China has propelled the local total to a stellar $71.2M. The Panda sequel debuts in a number of European markets next weekend including France and Germany. Adding foreign to domestic, Kung Fu Panda 2 was the world’s most popular film this weekend.
Dropping 40% to fifth place was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with an estimated $10.8M boosting Disney’s take to $208.8M. The latest Johnny Depp adventure is the second biggest domestic grosser of the year behind the Wolf Pack, however overseas business remained red hot with the film collecting an estimated $41.1M boosting the international haul to an eye-popping $678M. That makes Tides the sixth biggest blockbuster of all-time overseas. By the end of the week, the Fountain of Youth pic will sail past the $690.1M of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and the $690.2M of Depp’s own Alice in Wonderland to take the number four spot trailing only the third Lord of the Rings and a pair of James Cameron megahits. The new Pirates now stands at a towering $886.8M worldwide with a steep 77% coming from overseas and the one billion mark likely within reach. Top international markets are Japan ($74.5M), Germany ($66.7M), China ($65.2M), Russia ($60.7M), and the United Kingdom ($48M).
For the fourth straight weekend, Bridesmaids posted the lowest decline in the top ten slipping a mere 16% to an estimated $10.2M. If the estimate holds, the Kristin Wiig hit will become the only film of 2011 to gross over $10M for five weekends. With $123.9M, the Universal sleeper hit is cashing in on great word-of-mouth as more audiences continue to discover the raunchy wedding comedy. Bridesmaids should have no problem breaking the $150M mark now and may even reach the $164M of The Proposal from two summers ago which was PG-13.
After three sizzling weeks in limited release, Woody Allen’s new hit comedy Midnight in Paris accelerated its expansion plan and went nationwide this weekend taking in an estimated $6.1M from 944 locations for a good $6,511 average. Sony Classics has taken in $14.2M to date and could have a lot more to go as it positions the Owen Wilson starrer as an alternative choice for mature adults in a marketplace dominated by sci-fi actioners, sequels, and kidpics. Critics have been singing praises so the PG-13 film could enjoy good legs in the weeks ahead as buzz spreads and the long Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches.
Rounding out the top ten were the summer kickoff films that went head-to-head around the world. The 3D comic book pic Thor fell 44% to an estimated $2.4M for $173.6M to date for Paramount with $434M worldwide. Universal’s bigger hit Fast Five grossed an estimated $1.7M, off 46%, putting the domestic cume at $205.1M and the worldwide tally at a muscular $583.4M. The Vin Diesel vehicle is now the third biggest domestic grosser of the year but second highest globally behind only the Pirates sequel.
Top-tier specialty films continued to perform well as they expanded to more markets. Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn went from 20 to 47 theaters and grossed an estimated $875,000 for a solid $18,617 average for Fox Searchlight. Focus widened its Ewan McGregor pic Beginners from five to 19 playdates and collected an estimated $255,000 for a $13,421 average. Totals stand at $2.4M and $465,000, respectively.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $134.6M which was off 4% from last year when The Karate Kid opened in the top spot with $55.7M; but up 4% from 2009 when The Hangover remained at number one with $32.8M.