300: Rise of an Empire Slashes Competition with $45.1 Million Opening Weekend

300: Rise of an Empire Slashes Competition with $45.1 Million Opening WeekendThe delayed sequel 300: Rise of an Empire easily finished at the top of the North American box office this weekend, beating the solid bow of Fox/Dreamworks’ animated Mr. Peabody & Sherman and a good second weekend hold for Universal’s action-thriller Non-Stop. The arrivals of Xerxes and Mister Peabody helped push the box office up a substantial 22% over last weekend’s top ten, and a respectable 2.2% over the top ten from the same weekend a year ago.

Although the ending of 2007’s 300 didn’t exactly leave too many of its protagonists alive to fight another day, the $456 million global gross earned by Zack Snyder’s bloody flick guaranteed that Warner Brothers would certainly try to find a way to continue the story. With Frank Miller helping out by writing another graphic novel set in the Spartan Universe (Xerxes), that long sought-after second chapter became 300: Rise of an Empire. Following an eight-month delay, Rise of an Empire opened this weekend on 3,470 screens to slice and dice its way to an estimated $45 million. The new film stars Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro, and was directed by Noam Murro. Critical reviews were largely on the negative side as evidenced by the 43% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

While the $45 million opening for Empire was impressive, it was substantially less than the $70.8 million earned by the original seven years ago. The new film also had the advantage of higher-priced tickets for 3D screenings. Taking those factors into consideration, opening weekend attendance for the follow up was roughly half of what it was for the first movie. Should word-of-mouth prove to be less than stellar, Rise should consider itself lucky to earn half of what 300 did domestically (which was $210 million). That said, even if the new film does fall short, it should more than make up for it overseas. Since last Wednesday, the $110 million production has pulled in $87.8 million from foreign markets.

After getting a $40 million jumpstart overseas, the Fox/Dreamworks’ animated comedy Mr. Peabody & Sherman arrived in North America on 3,934 theaters this weekend where it earned an encouraging $32.5 million. The $145 million production, an updated version of the beloved 1960s cartoon, scored a solid 77% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King) and features the voice talents of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann. Mr. Peabody arrives at an ideal time as The Lego Movie and Frozen both appear to be finally slowing down and families are on the hunt for some new matinee fun.

Read our Mr. Peabody & Sherman review.

Dropping to third place in its second weekend was Universal’s Non-Stop. Despite the arrival of direct competition in the form of 300: Rise of an Empire, the Liam Neeson thriller held well, dropping only 46% in its sophomore session on 3,113 screens. After ten days, Non-Stop has earned $52.1 million and should cruise to $70-75 million by the end of its run.

In fourth place was The Lego Movie, which also features Neeson voicing one of its characters. The hit Warner animated feature added another $11 million to its domestic total, which now stands at $225 million.

Fox’s faith-based feature Son of God saw an audience erosion of 61% in its second weekend. The film dropped from second to fifth place and earned an estimated $10 million on 3,271 screens. Its ten-day total now stands at $41.4 million and should make its way to the $50-55 million mark. With so many churches and religious organizations heading out to see the film on opening weekend, a sizable drop was to be expected. Still, the budget on the Jesus feature had to be very low considering that it was recut from footage produced for the History Channel’s successful miniseries The Bible.

Just outside the top ten was the massive opening for the latest Wes Anderson feature The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Fox Searchlight comedy opened on only four screens but rang up $800,000 for a $200,000 per-screen average. The movie will slowly expand across the country over the next few weeks.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. The Monuments Men (Sony) $3.1 million (-37%); $70.6 million

7. 3 Days to Kill (Relativity) $3.06 million (-38%); $25.5 million

8. Frozen (Disney) $3.01million (-17%); $393 million

9. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) $2.175 million (+123%); $53.1 million

10. Ride Along (Universal) $2 million (-34%); $130 million

Next weekend offers something new for the guys and gals with the arrival of Need for Speed and The Single Mom’s Club, respectively. Expect the former to take down 300: Rise of an Empire.

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