It's the rare week that has four new wide studio openings, and rarer still when they take the top four slots. But last week's openers are falling fast, the summer's big hits are late in their runs, and the newbies are playing to discreet audiences. So at least three of the openers, led by "Elysium" (Sony) showed solid numbers on Friday.
The four films boosted the Top 10 total over the same Friday last year (roughly $47 million, up from $44) suggesting that after this weekend the year to date totals could be close to parity with last year's, after a long struggle (a more expensive slate of releases yielded six big money losers).
Elysium, a futuristic action/science-fiction film from director Neill Blomkamp, scored $11.2 million on Friday. The movie will fall somewhat behind less costly sleeper "District 9"'s $37 million opening weekend. After embattled Sony's rough summer, this number one opening--along with strong foreign grosses--is still welcome news.
Number two for Friday was Warner Bros.' raunchy comedy We're the Millers, with $8.5 million. This opened Wednesday, taking in an additional $11.5 for the first two days. Its 80% jump from Thursday suggests decent word of mouth. With a low production cost ($37 million), this Jennifer Anniston-Jason Sudeikis starrer is the second straight (after "The Conjuring") lower-budget success from Warners after a summer with a slate dominated by $100-200 million+ expense productions.
Planes (Buena Vista) comes in third at $8.1 million for its first day. This 3-D animated film set in the "Cars" universe is a DisneyToon production -- a unit that usually produces films that go straight to the DVD home viewing arena. But Disney/Pixar animation czar John Lasseter decided it was strong enough to play theatrically. The film could jump to #2 when weekend matinees come in. After a couple of softer than expected expensive cartoon releases ("Turbo" and "The Smurfs 2" both fared better overseas than domestic) this initial response suggests that a less pricey film with the Disney label attached can still rouse some solid numbers theatrically.
The fourth new film, Twentieth Century Fox's Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, the only sequel in the mix, will fall far short of its 2010 predecessor. Friday's $4.9 million brought its three-day total to $13.8 million. The first weekend for "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" did $31 million. The new film will end up short of that in its first five.
The rest of the top 10 all grossed under $3.5 million down to $1.1 million. Last week's #1 "Two Guns" (Universal) is holding less well than most of Denzel Washington's films (it will drop somewhat over 50%). "Smurfs 2" (Sony) might pick up a bit with matinees, but #6 as of now for its second Friday suggests no turnaround for its mediocre (as opposed to stronger foreign) performance so far. The rest of the top 10 slots belong to films that already have passed the $100 million mark -- "The Wolverine," "The Conjuring," "Despicable Me 2" and "Grown Ups 2."