Super 8 Exceeds Expectations with $37 Million Opening Weekend

Sci-fi thriller Super 8, the latest film from Lost creator J.J. Abrams, took the top spot at the North American box office this weekend. Last weekend’s champ X-Men: First Class settled for second place while the other opener for the weekend, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer opened to numbers that were totally a bummer. While the top ten was off 11.6% from last weekend, it was only off 4% from a year ago at this time.

Kicking things off in 300 theaters (most of them IMAX screens) last Thursday as part of a cross-promotion with Twitter, Paramount’s Super 8 expanded to 3,379 screens on Friday to earn a solid $37 million ($38 million since Thursday) in estimated sales. The per-screen average was an excellent $10,950. Written and Directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, whose early output is lovingly paid homage to in the film, Super 8 tells the tale of a group of small-town teens in 1979 who see something they shouldn’t have while filming a no-budget zombie film. It stars Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney.

While Super 8 may not have opened along the lines of the recent summer blockbusters, the $38 million debut is impressive for a number of reasons: it’s not a sequel, prequel or reboot, nor is it a superhero film. It doesn’t feature a big ticket star or all-star cast, it’s not in 3D (Yay!!!) and perhaps most important of all, it only cost $45 million -or roughly 1/5th the budget for the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie to produce. With an 82% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a “B+” Cinemascore rating from ticket buyers, Super 8 should manage to hold its own over the next few weeks to turn a nice little theatrical profit for the Viacom company.

Last weekend’s number one flick X-Men: First Class suffered a sophomore drop similar to the 2000 original. Easing up by roughly 55%, Matthew Vaughn’s mutants earned a decent $25 million to bring its total to the $99 million mark. It faces stiff competition next weekend in the form of Warner’s Green Lantern. Depending on how sizable the hit from the DC superhero is, First Class could graduate domestically with approximately $140 million which would make it the lowest grossing entry of the series so far. If the early foreign totals are any indication, it may make up for its soft Stateside gross. In the first week of global release, X-Men: First Class snapped up $75 million.

In third place this weekend was the Warner sequel smash The Hangover Part II, which added an estimated $18.5 million in its third weekend to bring its overall domestic total to the $217 million mark. Off a decent 41% from last weekend, it could reach the $250-260 million milestone by the end of its run. As of this past Thursday, The Hangover Part II has collected a big $152 million in foreign sales.

Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 2 showed some staying power in its third week of release. Easing a mere 30% from last week, Po and the gang earned an estimated $16.6 million from 3,929 screens to bring its total to the $127 million mark. The film has the family market all to itself until Disney and Pixar’s Cars 2 roars into theaters and could finish between $155-160 million in ticket sales. Overseas, Kung Fu Panda 2 has $150 million so far to bring its global total to $277 million.

Disney’s latest chapter in the Captain Jack saga, Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides, was down only 39% as it earned $10.8 million in its fourth week of release to land in fifth place. To date, the Johnny Depp adventure comedy has earned $209 million and could finish up with $230 million. The movie continues to bring in the big bucks overseas with a four-week haul of nearly $678 million thus far. It should pass the $700 million mark in foreign markets next week and the film should come fairly close to the $967 million earned by At World’s End four years ago. Currently, On Stranger Tides is the sixth highest-grossing film of all time overseas behind Avatar, Titanic, Return of the King, Ice Age 3 and Alice in Wonderland.

Universal’s hit comedy Bridesmaids continues to impress in its fifth go around on 2,922 screens. The film was only off 16% while adding $10.1 million to land in sixth place. Its new overall total is a great $124 million so far. Seventh place went to the weekend’s second wide opener, the Relativity Media release Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. The critically-reviled family flick (a toxic 13% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) was dead on arrival with a rancid $6.2 million from 2,524 screens in its debut. The opening guarantees that the film may not make it to the official start of the summer season (in the real world, not Hollywood) in a week and a half.

Sony’s Woody Allen hit Midnight in Paris expanded this weekend to 944 screens to earn an estimated $6.1 million. To date, the Woodman’s latest has scored a solid $14.2 million in domestic sales and should continue to be the counter-programming film of choice for adults throughout the early summer season. Rounding out the top ten were two late-spring blockbusters. Paramount/Marvel’s Thor added an additional $2.3 million in sales to land in ninth. To date, the superhero flick has earned a solid $174 million. Rounding out the top ten in its seventh week of release is Universal’s Fast Five. Paul and Vin added an estimated $1.7 million in sales to bring its overall domestic total to the $205 million mark. Overseas total for Fast Five stands at $378 million.

Next weekend, Warner will unleash Green Lantern while Fox opens the latest Jim Carrey comedy Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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