2 Guns
2 Guns

Universal returned to the #1 spot with Denzel Washington-Mark Wahlberg actioner "2 Guns," the latest in the studio's diverse string of successful openings, after an expensive detour with the dreadful opening of "R.I.P.D." "2 Guns" led a top 10 that totaled about $120 million in gross, a jump of $8 million over last year. Meantime, the domestic take for "The Smurfs 2" disappointed, although Sony reports better international returns.

In the end, July totaled (inflation unadjusted) the second highest-grossing month ever. While that may sound encouraging, the total of around $1.2 billion came with new production budgets totaling $1,050,000,000. The record month of July 2008's gross, $1,250,000,000, came with new releases costing $733 million, a much lower figure. Add to July's top ten releases worldwide the  additional marketing expense of $100 million or more, and the question of whether this has been a truly successful summer won't be answered until lagging foreign grosses are factored in. So far this summer has been a high-risk, not-so-high reward season, with several films enjoying great success.

"The Spectacular Now" (A24) became the fourth strong limited opening in recent weeks with a $200,000 take in four New York/Los Angeles theaters. But the biggest news on the limited front came from Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" (Sony Pictures Classics), which grossed over $2 million in only 48 theaters, with a per screen average only slightly less despite being on 44 more screens. This looks now to be a breakout crossover hit on the level of his "Midnight in Paris."

Two other already wider releases expanded a bit, but their order flipped. Fox Searchlight's "The Way, Way Back" came in #11, with $2,850,000 in 1,001 theaters, dropping only 17% from last weekend with only a small increase in total runs. Last weekend's #10 film "Fruitvale Station" (Weinstein) didn't hold as well. It grossed $2,700,000 in 1,086 theaters, down 41% with only 22 more theaters this weekend, coming in #12.

1. 2 Guns (Universal/EOne in Canada) NEW - Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 55

$27,400,000 in 3,025 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $9,045; Cumulative: $27,400,000

A solid if not spectacular start for this crime actioner, with two stars from earlier similar hits pairing for the first time at a level not at their best, but still respectable. Playing at fewer theaters than any of the other top 6 films this week, and fewer than most films that hit #1, without the benefit of 3-D surcharges, this $61 million independent (Emmet/Furia Films) production looks to fall short of the $100 million+ results of Washington's two best action films recently (the surprisingly strong "Safe House" and the more broadly appealing "American Gangster"), but might with good word of mouth (Cinemascore was B+) get close to his most recent film, his Oscar-nominated "Flight." For Wahlberg, it is his best 2013 opening after the disastrous "Broken City" and the controversial "Pain and Gain."

It should be a boost for Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur, whose eclectic career has seen him both a film festival favorite for his home country films ("The Deep" made the list of nine finalists for the 2012 Foreign Language Oscar) but also one previous studio production, "Contraband," also with Wahlberg, which opened to $24 million on its way to a $66 million domestic take. That $24 million film established his commercial bonafides. This, still less expensive than most star-driven releases, looks to push him further up in demand.

Among the six credited producers is Marc Platt, whose varied slate in recent years has include "Drive," "Nine," "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" and "Rachel Getting Married."

What comes next: Sony is the lead distributor for this overseas, although it is being handled by multiple companies. Openings are scattered throughout the next few months, with Japan not until November.

2. The Wolverine (20th Century-Fox) Week 2 - Last weekend  #1

$21,725,000 (-59%) in 3,924 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $5,536; Cumulative: $93,059,000

A big drop, but still managed to hold on to second place. The falloff is comparable to the non-Hugh Jackman "X-Men: First Class" two years ago, but better than the star's last Wolverine starrer in 2009. However the actual gross is below both for their second weekends, despite 3-D surcharges. This is doing somewhat better internationally, with Japan, likely its biggest foreign territory, not set to open until September.

What comes next: Fox is committed to the series continuing, but costs (this one cost $120 million) could start to become an issue. Wolevrine turns up for the 7th time in Bryan Singer's upcoming "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

3. The Smurfs 2 (Sony) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: D+; Metacritic:

$18,200,000 in 3,866 theaters; PSA: $4,708; Cumulative: $27,761,000

Sony justifiably wants the headline to be the international performance for this cartoon feature, which in its previous entry grossed 75% of its $563 million take internationally. The worldwide total is over $80 million, with many territories yet to open, many of those on board already exceeding the grosses of the first one, and opening #1 in most places.

The domestic tale is different. Even with opening two days earlier, the five-day total is 25% below what "The Smurfs" did for its initial three days, in contrast to many animated sequels which exceed the gross of the original. Its audience response seems to be OK (Cinemascore A-, a grade also scored by underperforming "Turbo"). This suffers from animation overload this summer, as well as not appealing to older children and adults at the level of "Despicable Me 2" and others.