Box Office Guru Wrapup: Expendables Seizes #1 spot



Elderly adrenaline ruled the North American box office as the bullet-filled action sequel The Expendables 2 opened at number one although with less muscle than its predecessor. Three other new films, each targeting a specific segment of the moviegoing public, also debuted and attracted respectable but not stellar grosses. But the variety of content from new and holdover pictures worked together to deliver a strong overall performance as the marketplace was substantially larger than normal for the middle of August with seven different movies breaking double-digit millions over the weekend.

Sylvester Stallone rounded up his boys and packed the guns for his latest action offering The Expendables 2 which captured the top spot with an estimated $28.8M opening weekend. The R-rated mega-pack of testosterone and lead averaged a good $8,670 from 3,316 theaters and played to the same older male fan base that powered its 2010 predecessor to a beefier $34.8M bow in mid-August of that summer. The new Lionsgate release tried to add more to the table. Joining returning stars like Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren were action heroes from yesteryear like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis who took on bigger roles and more screen time. Stallone did not direct this $90M production as the chair was given to Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider).

The original Expendables was the first of its kind to combine so many macho action heroes under one roof. But that novelty was gone with the sequel which essentially followed the same formula adding some new faces to the mix for action fans that loved the machine gun flicks of the 1980s. Recent audience sensitivity to guns in the wake of several shootings around the country, and bomb scares at Carmike Cinemas on opening day, may have had some contribution to the 17% drop in opening weekend sales for the latest Expendables installment. But it is impossible to tell how much. Overall marketplace conditions may also have had an impact as every action movie over the past two months has opened either at or below expectations.

Demographics were about the same this second time around with males making up 63% of the audience, compared to 61% for the first flick. 65% were 25 or older. For a Stallone action sequel, reviews were actually quite good. And those that paid to see Expendables 2 did like it as the film earned an encouraging A- grade from CinemaScore. The first all-star combo pack went on to gross an impressive $103.1M domestically and $274M worldwide. This one too should rely on overseas audiences to kick in the bulk of the cash.

Rival August action pic The Bourne Legacy settled for second place and took a sequel-like fall of 55% to an estimated $17M. Universal has banked $69.6M in its first ten days for the new Jeremy Renner installment in the spy series. The last two Matt Damon films did slightly better in their second weekends with declines of 53% for 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum and 54% for 2004's The Bourne Supremacy although those were at or above the $100M mark by the sophomore session. Look for Legacy to end its run with roughly $115M as it joins this summer's latest chapters for Spider-Man, Ice Age, Step Up, and Men in Black as the lowest-grossing installment domestically of its franchise.

Focus gave a big launch to its 3D toon ParaNorman and scored a third place debut with an estimated $14M from a very wide 3,429 locations for a mild $4,085 average. The PG-rated stop-motion flick about a young boy who sees ghosts won rave reviews from film critics and had to compete with multiple other choices for kids from Disney and Fox. The CinemaScore was a respectable B+. With nothing new for youngsters next weekend, ParaNorman hopes to keep playing to its target audience until schools reopen for the new academic year.

Will Ferrell's political comedy The Campaign dropped 50% in the polls and collected an estimated $13.4M in its second term boosting the ten-day tally to $51.7M. The Warner Bros. release should end its run with about $85M which would be a solid result for an R-rated comedy.

Sony's summer recycling program of sequels, reboots, and remakes continued with the musical drama Sparkle which debuted in fifth with an estimated $12M from 2,244 theaters for a decent $5,348 average. Starring American Idol champ Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston in her final role, the PG-13 film played overwhelmingly to an older female crowd as studio research showed that the audience was 74% female and 62% over the age of 35. A remake of the classic film from 1976, Sparkle earned mixed reviews from critics but truly won over paying audiences. Its CinemaScore grade was a solid A. But despite that high score, sales slipped on Saturday and the overall weekend average was not as high as those for many other films aimed at mature African-American women. Direct competition is minimal over the next couple of weeks so it may have a chance to hold up giving the low cost $14M production a profitable run.

Super hero juggernaut The Dark Knight Rises fell out of the top five in its fifth frame with an estimated $11.1M, off a respectable 41%. The Warner Bros. threequel smashed the $400M mark on Friday in its 29th day of release and has upped its domestic total to $409.9M allowing Bane and his goons to climb up to number 12 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters passing the $407.7M of last spring's blockbuster The Hunger Games. A sensational $58.8M of the Batgross has come from IMAX locations. Overseas, Rises rose up to $487.8M surpassing the $469.7M lifetime international gross of The Dark Knight while stabilizing its decline to 42%. The worldwide haul now stands at $897.7M with Greece, Italy, and the key Chinese market still to open over the next two weeks.

Opening in seventh place was the tween dramedy The Odd Life of Timothy Green with an estimated $10.9M over the weekend and $15.2M over the five days since its Wednesday launch. The PG-rated film averaged a lukewarm $4,199 from 2,598 sites over three days and played mostly to moms and kids. Families made up 53% of the crowd while females were 68%. Reviews were not too good but moviegoers were satisfied with their experience as the Disney pic earned an A- from CinemaScore. Opening head-to-head against ParaNorman certainly split some of the family crowd which already had other brand-based options to choose from.

Sony's older-skewing comedy Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones held up well in its second weekend as expected slipping 38% to an estimated $9.1M for a ten-day total of $35.1M. A final of $60-70M could result. Fox's kid sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days tumbled 52% to an estimated $3.9M while Sony's remake Total Recall rounded out the top ten with an estimated $3.5M falling a steep 56%. Cumes stand at $38.8M and $51.8M, respectively.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $123.7M which was up 27% from last year when The Help climbed into the number one spot in its second weekend with $20M; and up 21% from 2010 when The Expendables remained on top with $17M.

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