Box Office Guru Wrapup: Fast & Furious 6 Stays in the Lead

Now You See Me and After Earth round out the top three.

The action sequel Fast & Furious 6 held onto the top spot at the North American box office despite decelerating sharply and facing off against competition from a pair of new releases. But it was Will Smith who crashed and burned as his big-budget sci-fi action pic After Earth was rejected by paying moviegoers proving that the once-bulletproof star is no longer invincible. In fact, it was beaten out for the number two spot by the magician heist thriller Now You See Me which posted a strong debut beating expectations.

Six movies in and the Fast and Furious franchise finally scored its first hit to top the charts over back-to-back weekends. Vin Diesel's latest action entry tumbled by 65% to an estimated $34.5M in its sophomore frame which was enough to beat all rivals. After ten days, the Universal hit has grossed a stellar $170.4M, up 22% compared to the pace of its 2011 predecessor Fast Five which ranks as the top-grossing installment of the series - for now. That film opened in late April and fell by 62% in its second weekend while the prior chapter, 2009's Fast & Furious, fell by the same rate after its early April launch.

Part 6 should end its domestic run near the $250M mark, a new high for a franchise which has now grossed over $2 billion worldwide across 12 years. And with this new blockbuster, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has now spent a total of 15 consecutive weeks in the top ten dating back to the February 22 release of Snitch followed by G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Pain & Gain, and of course Furious.

Fast & Furious 6 pulled in another $75M from international markets this weekend boosting the overseas cume to $310.2M and the global gross to a stellar $480.6M.

Delivering a surprise number two debut was the magician heist thriller Now You See Me with an estimated $28.1M from 2,925 locations for a sturdy $9,590 average. The PG-13 pic starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman played to a broad audience which helped to bring in sales from all sectors, especially those not interested in recycled sequels.

Studio research from Lionsgate showed that females made up 51% of the audience, 52% were under 30, and 52% were non-white. Reviews were mixed but a slick trailer got the crowds in. Now was expected to open closer to the $20M mark and proved that originality can still sell in a brand-dominated summer movie season. The CinemaScore grade was an encouraging A-.

Will Smith suffered the worst summer opening of his career with the big-budget flop After Earth which settled in at number three with an estimated $27M, about half of what the former bulletproof box office star would normally attract for this kind of movie. Panned by critics, and likely setting itself up for multiple Razzies next year, the Sony release averaged $7,939 from 3,401 theaters.

The father-son project starred his son Jaden Smith (who got top billing) and was directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Since hitting it big with The Sixth Sense, the filmmaker has only had one movie open worse - 2006's the Lady in the Water with $18M. With horrible reviews and awful buzz, audiences stayed away from the futuristic action pic. After Earth even fared worse that Smith's Wild Wild West from 1999 which bowed to $27.7M over the three-day portion of a long holiday weekend on its way to $113.8M.

The $130M space ranger pic might top out in the $60-70M domestic range as there are no signs that it will have legs. The B CinemaScore indicates lukewarm word-of-mouth and Shyamalan films routinely collapse in the second weekend. All his films over the past decade had sophomore drops of 59-68%. After Earth's audience was 51% male and 60% over 25. Sony is counting on the effects-heavy pic to score better numbers overseas but there is only so much a weak product can take in.

Enjoying a respectable decline coming off of a holiday session was the animated film Epic which dropped 51% to an estimated $16.4M boosting the total for Fox to $65.2M. Tied with the same amount was Star Trek Into Darkness which fell 56% in its third weekend and raised its cume to a good $181.2M for Paramount.

The comedy sequel The Hangover Part III fell apart again in its third round tumbling 62% to an estimated $15.9M. Warner Bros. has banked $88.1M to date and is running 53% behind the pace of The Hangover Part II from two years ago over the same time period. That film had a similar 64% fall in its sophomore frame which was also coming off of Memorial Day weekend.

2013's biggest smash Iron Man 3 followed with an estimated $8M, off 59%, for a domestic haul of $384.8M. The Disney release has amassed $795.2M overseas pushing the global tally to $1.18 billion. Dropping 54% to an estimated $6.3M was Leonado DiCaprio's The Great Gatsby which has grossed $128.3M to date for Warner Bros.

Indie movies rounded out the top ten. The Bollywood hit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani opened at number nine with roughly $1.7M from 162 locations for a solid $10,494 average. Matthew McConaughey's hit Mud took in an estimated $1.2M in its sixth weekend, down 37%, lifitng the sum to $16.9M.

Two more specialty releases with fairly good reviews had moderate, but not sensational, debuts in platform release. Fox Searchlight's espionage thriller The East starring Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page and Patricia Clarkson bowed to an estimated $76,000 from four houses for a $19,000 average. Meanwhile, CBS Films also went into four theaters in New York and Los Angeles with its coming-of-age comedy The Kings of Summer - an acquisition from Sundance - which took in an estimated $58,000 for a $14,500 average. Both expand next weekend.

Sony Classics expanded the Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy relationship pic Before Midnight from four to 31 theaters and jumped up to an estimated $431,000 for an average of $13,903. With a $800,000 cume, the Richard Linklater film widens again next weekend into about 50 total sites before going nationwide on June 14 as upscale counter-programming to Man of Steel.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $155.5M which was up 18% from last year when Snow White and the Huntsman opened at number one with $56.2M; and up 2% from 2011 when X-Men: First Class debuted in the top spot with $55.1M.

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