Box Office Guru Wrapup: Inception Soars to No. 1

Despicable Me and The Sorcerer's Apprentice round out the top three.

by Gitesh Pandya | Monday, Jul. 19 2010

This weekend, moviegoers were in the mood for using their brains as the smart sci-fi thriller Inception debuted atop the North American box office chart while the generic effects-driven action pic The Sorcerer's Apprentice was utterly rejected stumbling into third place with a weak showing. Funny holdovers held up well while most others fell sharply as the overall marketplace remained strong.

Following much anticipation, Warner Bros. unleashed its Leonardo DiCaprio-led crime thriller Inception and was met with a strong response from ticket buyers taking in an estimated $60.4M in its opening weekend. The studio released the Christopher Nolan-directed pic in 3,792 theaters including a record 197 IMAX sites and averaged a sizzling $15,928 per location. It was the actor's biggest opening ever beating out the $41.1M of Shutter Island from just five months ago. Inception also delivered the third biggest opening of the year for a 2D film following the high-profile summer sequels Iron Man 2 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Fans had been waiting for Nolan to follow up on his 2008 megahit The Dark Knight and Inception provided a thinking person's pic thanks to an original story written by the director. Films with openings like this are usually based on some kind of pre-existing source material or are headlined by stars that routinely open pictures at this level. Reviews and word-of-mouth so far have been very strong and the complex storyline does encourage repeat viewing so the road ahead could be promising. The PG-13 pic cost $150M to produce.

Overseas, Inception premiered in Nolan's native U.K. plus a half-dozen Asian territories to a solid estimate of $15.6M and rolls out into 29 more markets this coming weekend including Japan, France, Mexico, Australia, Korea, and Russia. Thirteen more countries including Germany open on the following frame.

Knocked down to number two but still packing quite a punch was the 3D toon Despicable Me which grossed an estimated $32.7M in its second weekend. The Universal hit fell just 42% which represented a terrific hold considering all the summer competition. Steve Carell's turn as a lovable supervillain has pulled in a stellar $118.4M in its first ten days and with strong midweeks could very well be headed past the $200M mark. The struggling studio has had only two other films join the double-century club over the last five years -- King Kong and The Bourne Ultimatum -- and is now well-positioned as one of the last major studio players in the lucrative animation world.

Superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer suffered one of the worst openings of his career with the weak launch of the big-budget adventure film The Sorcerer's Apprentice which bowed to just $17.4M in third place, according to estimates. With $24.5M in the five days since its Wednesday start, the PG-rated pic managed to average $4,958 from 3,504 theaters. Apprentice stars Nicolas Cage as a wizard that takes on a protégé to help him in his long battle with a rival wizard.

The performance was about even with the producer's 2004 summer adventure King Arthur which also bowed midweek in July in third place and opened to $15.2M over the weekend ($4,923 average) and $23.6M in five days. That film, still ranking as one of Bruckheimer's biggest failures, sold about 13% more tickets in its five-day debut and ended its domestic run at just $51.9M.

Reportedly costing around $150M to produce, the flop follows Bruckheimer's other pricey summer action offering Prince of Persia which has been a disappointment in North America grossing less than $90M to date despite a budget that was much higher. The veteran producer has long been a steady supplier of hits for Disney but this summer marks a rare case of back-to-back clunkers from his signature genre of loud and expensive summer action movies. Apprentice offered impressive special effects, but its generic feel prevented audience members from getting any excitement.

Summit's teen smash The Twilight Saga: Eclipse cracked the Top 50 chart of all-time domestic blockbusters this weekend. The vampire pic dropped 57% to an estimated $13.5M bumping the total to an impressive $264.9M putting the third installment of the franchise at number 48 behind Shrek which grossed $267.7M in 2001. Toy Story 3 rose up to number 15 on the all-time list this weekend with its estimated $11.7M three-day take. Off 44%, the Disney/Pixar smash has hauled in $362.7M to date and now sits behind The Passion of the Christ's $370.3M.

Sony's Grown Ups still played well as the summer's big broad comedy grossing an estimated $10M in its fourth frame, down 37%, boosting the cume for the Adam Sandler pic to $129.3M. Fantasy flick The Last Airbender fell 55% in its third weekend to an estimated $7.5M giving Paramount $114.8M in 18 days.

Producer Robert Rodriguez's Predators collapsed in its sophomore frame tumbling 73% to an estimated $6.8M and lifted its ten-day total to a decent $40.1M. Fox stablemate Knight and Day took in an estimated $3.7M, off 52%, for a $69.2M cume. Sony's reboot hit Karate Kid dropped 59% to an estimated $2.2M and has taken in a terrific $169.2M to date.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $165.9M which was up 10% from last year when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opened in the top spot with $77.8M; but down 34% from 2008 when The Dark Knight debuted at number one with a record $158.4M. This is the third year in a row that Warner Bros. opened a new film at number one on this particular frame.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

Comments