Given the chance to laugh or dream, moviegoers went back to dreamland. Warner Bros.' Christopher Nolan thriller Inception kicked away three fresh wide-release contenders this weekend for the top spot, hauling in $27.5 million. Meanwhile, Jay Roach’s comedy Dinner for Schmucks, a remake of the 1998 French film The Dinner Game, savored second place with $23.3 million – a figure that’s in line with previous Steve Carell broad comedies.
Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, a CGI-live action sequel to the 2001 summer kid feature Cats and Dogs was only able to scrap up $12.5 million, having been a dormant franchise for nine years. The studio can thank its 3D format for that one. Though the pricey family film edged out Charlie St. Cloud, $12.1 million meant more to Universal and Relativity Media, as their Zac Efron romance drama only cost $44 million.
In its third weekend, Inception fell 36%: a drop that any distribution executive would covet, especially for a high-concept feature.
Like The Sixth Sense in 1999, Inception is the thinking person’s tentpole, with a complex plot that sparks debate in the lobby and a "need-to-see-again" response from serious moviegoers. Though Sixth Sense had a slightly different trajectory at the box office (the film bowed at $26.7 million and reaped $20-million-plus weekends for four more frames), both titles are benefactors of repeat business. Inception has made $193.3 million over three weekends, a figure that Sixth Sense accumulated in twice the amount of time.
As to whether Inception will ultimately beat out the summer's likeliest highest grosser, Toy Story 3 (at $389.7 million and counting), one studio distribution executive exclaims, “If it does, it just goes to show how healthy the moviegoing business is right now.”
Next weekend's Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg action-comedy The Other Guys could stir Inception attendees from their analytic trance. Ferrell’s previous summer collaboration with his creative partner Adam McKay have made impressive bows: 2008’s Step Brothers chalked up $30.9 million in its first weekend, while 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby posted $47 million.
Like Adam Sandler, Steve Carell comedies have a tendency to open at a certain level and play for several weeks, ultimately surpassing $100 million. Carell’s spring live action rom-com Date Night opened to $25.2 million and came close to ending its run at $100 million. Schmucks is a different type of comedy for director Roach, less satirical than Austin Powers and less broad than Meet the Parents. Schmucks received a similar reaction to Sony’s Grown Ups from ticket buyers overall who gave it a B Cinemascore. Critics were split over the comedy awarding it a 51% rotten on the Tomatometer. Paramount kept the Schmucks budget to $69 million– 4% less than Grown Ups, which cost %80 million.
Older guys cued up for Schmucks: its demo was 55% males, 54% over 25.
Heading into the weekend, Kitty Galore wasn’t expected to send shockwaves through the charts. The animal-headliner suffered two fates: there’s a plethora of strong family films in the market, and parents were willing to shell out their bucks to see Toy Story 3 or Despicable Me again. Second, Warner Bros. didn’t keep the Cats and Dogs franchise alive through any prolific ancillary activity over the last nine years. 46% of those attending Kitty Galore were under 18, 54% were male. Youngsters' Cinemascore was B+ vs. an overall B-. The critics threw kitty litter at Kitty Galore: it earned a 15% rotten Tomatometer score.
The only way that Kitty Galore was able to pull a double-digit gross: its 3D format. Make no mistake, Kitty Galore is a stinker.
Relativity Media has a knack for squeezing dough out of romance-dramas. The financer skipped to the bank with the Nicholas Sparks four-hankie Dear John, which grossed $80 million off a $25-million budget. Charlie St. Cloud may also prove profitable, but while Efron showed off his acting chops to a small cadre of femme fans, audiences want to see him in more mainstream fare. Charlie attracted 79% females who were 59% under the age of 25. Word-of-mouth looks strong among Charlie's youthful fans as well as their moms, who gave the film an A- Cinemascore. The critics gave the movie a sour 26% rotten..
Below are the top 10 with weekend figures:
1. Inception (Warner Bros.): $27.5 million down 36% in its third weekend at 3,545 theaters. $7,763 theater average. Domestic total: $193.3 million
2. Dinner for Schmucks (Paramount): $23.3 million in its first weekend at 2,911. $8,004 theater average. Domestic total:$23.3 million.
3. Salt (Sony): $19.25 million down 47% in its second weekend at 3,612 theaters. $5,329 theater average. Domestic total: $70.8 million.
4. Despicable Me (Universal): $15.4 million down 35% in its fourth weekend at 3,602 theaters. $4,315 theater average. Domestic total: $190.3 million
5. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner Bros.) : $12.5 million in its first weekend at 3,705. $3,381 theater average. Domestic total: $12.5 million.
6. Charlie St. Cloud (Universal) : $12.1 million in its first weekend at 2,718. $4,465 theater average. Domestic total: $12.1 million.
7. Toy Story 3 (Disney/Pixar): $5.04 million down 44% in its seventh weekend at 2,105 theaters. $2,392 theater average. Domestic total: $389.7 million.
8. Grown Ups (Sony): $4.5 million down 39% in its sixth weekend at 2,269 theaters. $1,983 theater average. Domestic total: $150.7 million.
9. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Disney):$4.32 million down 55% in its third weekend at 2,524 theaters. $1,712 theater average. Domestic total: $51.9 million.
10. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit Entertainment ): $3.97 million down 44% at 2,334 theaters in its fifth weekend. $1,699 theater average. Domestic total: $288.2 million.