Cowboys & Aliens Edged by Smurfs at Friday Box Office

Cowboys & Aliens behind stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde underachieved at the box office Friday, opening the door for blue CGI-animated munchkins to challenge for box office bragging rights.

After a full day in theaters on Friday, Cowboys & Aliens lassoed $13 million in ticket sales from around 3,750 theaters. To put that opening in perspective, J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 brought in the same amount its debut Friday with virtually no star names up on the marquee. Neither of the films were shown in 3D so its a pretty straightforward comparison. Considering the big names including director Jon Favreau involved, Cowboys & Aliens is looking more like a box office dud than the stud Universal hoped it would be.

Critics are calling for The Smurfs to lead the 2011 Razzies already, but that didn’t stop families from flocking to the poorly reviewed film that blends CGI Smurfs into bustling New York City. It beat expectations with $13.3 million on Friday, surprisingly coming in above Cowboys & Aliens through 24 hours. The Smurfs does have the advantage of 3D to boost ticket sales with just under half the showings falling into that category.

Family films tend to pick up pace on Saturdays while action films tend to ease off. If this trend holds true, The Smurfs will beat Cowboys & Aliens through Sunday by somewhere between $2 and $4 million. Neither film is expected to reach the $40 million mark.

Third place on Friday went to Captain America: The First Avenger with $7.9 million, a 69 percent decline from its opening day exactly a week ago. It is now knocking on $100 million’s doorstep with $99.7 million and should pass the milestone early Monday.

Speaking of passing milestones, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 flew past the $300 million mark with $6.6 million, good enough for fourth place and a cumulative total of $303.2 million through just over two weeks in theaters. More impressive, though not really unexpected, is the film is closing in on Sorcerer’s Stone $317.6 million mark to become the highest grossing Potter film in North America.

Last place went to the weekend’s other wide release newcomer, Crazy, Stupid, Love with Steve Carell. It earned $6.6 million on Friday and should finish somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 to $18 million for its opening weekend, a far cry from where The Smurfs and Cowboys & Aliens will place.

I’ll update the complete weekend box office estimates from the studios tomorrow afternoon.

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