It was an embarrassment of riches at the weekend box office, as two films led by stars, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Inception and Angelina Jolie’s Salt, racked up $43.5 million and $36.5 million respectively.
Clearly both original pictures leaned on serious star power to launch their franchises, during a time when box office analysts have been questioning whether stars mean much these days. Inception had a remarkably small slip for a tentpole film of just 31%. Typically an actioner will halve its ticket sales in its second frame, but Inception's complex plot inspires moviegoer debate--and lots of repeat business.
While it didn't unseat Inception, Sony’s $100-million spy thriller Salt generated enough coin at 3,612 houses to make execs happy at the Culver City studio. As the first installment in a potential spy series, Salt outstripped the first weekend of 2002’s The Bourne Identity which targeted $27.1 million. That Matt Damon thriller built up steam at the domestic B.O. and Sony expects Salt to behave in a similar fashion, ultimately streaking past the century mark in weeks to come.
Salt marks another notch in the belt of Angelina Jolie's openings as an action star. Fact is, her other action titles have bowed to bigger numbers. Her top three are Wanted ($50.9 million), Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($50.3 million) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ($47.7 million). Jolie is the only woman who can open a guy’s genre -- the action movie – and also pull in women. 53% of the film’s crowd was women, with another 59% over the age of 25.
The actress worked overtime to earn her $20 million paycheck, from signing autographs at Comic-Con to breaking her reclusive image on ABC’s Nightline in a tell-all interview about her personal life. Unlike the print campaign for Fox’s cloak-and-dagger title Knight and Day, which only exposed the silhouettes of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, moviegoers knew from the Salt posters what they were getting for their 13 bucks: an Angelina Jolie vehicle.
On director Phillip Noyce’s resume, which is heavy with both blockbuster and indie political thrillers, Salt reps his best opening of all time, out-notching 1994’s Tom Clancy adaptation Clear and Present Danger which bowed to $20.3 million. Noyce’s previous collaboration with Jolie, 1999’s The Bone Collector, opened to $16.7 million and finaled at $66.5 million.
Universal’s 3D animated comedy Despicable Me continued to receive love from moviegoers, slipping 24% in its third session with $24.1 million -- a figure that trumps the numbers of last July’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs during the same frame (Dinosaurs made $17.6 million, down 36% in its third weekend). Currently, Despicable Me is outpacing Dinosaurs in its running domestic tally by 6%.
The weekend’s second wide release, Fox’s kid-lit adaptation Ramona and Beezus, also exuded girl power to the demo age too young to attend Salt, drawing $8 million. Costing just $15 million, Ramona reps a mini-cash cow for the studio. The kid pic won a rave 70% fresh off the Tomatometer and A- Cinemascore, beating Salt’s 56% rotten rating (critics are tough on action movies) and B+ Cinemascore. Ramona star Selena Gomez of Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place was key to luring the key girl demo: 75% of the audience was female with 57% under 25.
Below is the top 10 chart with weekend figures:
1. Inception (Warner Bros.): $43.5 million down 31% in its second weekend at 3,792 theaters. $11,473 theater average. Domestic total: $143.7 million
2. Salt (Sony): $36.5 million in its first weekend at 3,612 theaters. $10,105 theater average. Domestic total: $36.5 million.
3. Despicable Me (Universal): $24.1 million down 26% in its third weekend at 3,600 theaters. $6,700 theater average. Domestic total: $161.7 million
4. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Disney):$9.685 million down 45% in its second weekend at 3,504 theaters. $2,764 theater average. Domestic total: $42.6 million.
5. Toy Story 3 (Disney/Pixar): $9 million down 25% in its sixth weekend at 2,766 theaters. $3,264 theater average. Domestic total: $379.5 million.
6. Ramona and Beezus (Fox): $8 million in its first weekend at 2,719 theaters. $2,942 theater average. Domestic total: $8 million
7. Grown Ups (Sony): $7.6 million down 23% in its fifth weekend at 2,859 theaters. $2,658 theater average. Domestic total: $142.4 million.
8. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit Entertainment ): $7 million down 48% at 3,121 theaters in its fourth weekend. $2,243 theater average. Domestic total: $279.7 million.
9. The Last Airbender (Paramount): $4.1 million down 46% in its fourth weekend at 2,127 theaters. $1,962 theater average. Domestic total: $123.3 million.
10. Predators (Fox):$2.85 million down 59% in its third weekend at 1,846 theaters. $1,544 theater average. Domestic total: $46.6 million.