Warner Bros.’ Inception kept summer audiences wide awake, drawing $60.4 million at 3,792 theaters, and gave Leonardo DiCaprio his best domestic opening ever. The actor’s previous opening high came earlier this year with Paramount’s Shutter Island which counted over $41 million.
However, Walt Disney’s $150-million fantasy adventure The Sorcerer’s Apprentice suffered from a spell of black magic, casting $17.4 million over the Friday through Sunday period and $24.5 million since its Wednesday opening at 3,504 – a second blow to tentpole producer Jerry Bruckheimer in the wake of Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time’s beheading at the domestic box office over Memorial Day weekend. Over three days, Sorcerer ranks as the lowest opening for a Bruckheimer-Nicolas Cage collaboration. Sorcerer’s five-day gross is lackluster because the duo have a track record for easily hitting $20 million-plus openings in three days.
Sorcerer was squashed in third by last weekend’s holdover Despicable Me from Universal which drew an affable $32.7 million from 3501 theaters, escalating its cume to $118.4 million. Despicable Me isn’t tracking that far behind last July’s boffo 3-D animated film, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs which accrued $119.7 million by the end of its second weekend. Dinosaurs finaled at $196.6 million.
Inception’s strong opening is validated both by box office cynics and competitive studio executives. Though far from the typical $100 million three-day hauls that we have come to expect, Inception wins on the “Look, Ma, no hands!” front. Translation: Warner Bros. was able to open a complex, heady thriller which wasn’t based on previous source material – a feat that plenty of studios would love to pull off this summer. ““We peaked at the right time when the film opened," says Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman. "Christopher Nolan is smart. We discussed this opening date and wanted to wait for the sequels and popcorn films to move out of the way, so that we could attract the biggest possible audience.”
Critics’ advance praise also fueled Inception, which ranked 84% on the Tomatometer, with an overall Cinemascore of B+ and an A among those under 25. 73% of Inception’s moviegoers were comprised of those under the age of 34 – a whopping figure. 54% of attendees were male; 44% were female.
Inception easily ranks as Nolan's second-highest bow, following his $158.4 million industry stateside record for The Dark Knight in 2008.
While Avatar reigns with the highest opening -- $77 million – for an original script, many attribute that film’s strong start to its 3-D component and the fact that it was director James Cameron’s first feature in 12 years. In the $60 million range on the domestic openers chart, original scripted live-action features are few, and Inception finds itself in the company of such former summer PG-13 champs as The Day After Tomorrow ($68.7 million) and Sony’s Hancock ($62.6 million).
On paper, Sorcerer should have worked. Team Bruckheimer-Cage and director Jon Turteltaub have reaped wonderful B.O. receipts with their National Treasure franchise, which was a PG holiday staple in 2004 and 2007. The last sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets bowed to $44.8 million and ended its domestic run at $220 million.
Sorcerer’s bumbling at the B.O. could be attributed to a number of factors, from sour press (its Tomatometer score was 40% rotten) to being out of season. While Book of Secrets held the number one spot for three weekends unopposed by animated fare, Sorcerer is fending off four other family films on the top 10 charts. Sorcerer skewed mostly male, over 50%, with a B+ Cinemascore.
Top Ten weekend box office chart:
1. Inception (Warner Bros.): $60.4 million in its first weekend at 3,792 theaters. $15,928 theater average. Domestic total: $60.4 million
2. Despicable Me (Universal): $32.7 million down 42% in its second weekend at 3,501 theaters. $9,350 theater average. Domestic total: $118.4 million
3. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Disney):$17.4 million in its first weekend at 3,504 theaters. $4,958 theater average. Domestic total: $24.5 million in five days.
4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit Entertainment ): $13.5 million down 57% at 4,001 theaters in its third weekend. $3,373 theater average. Domestic total: $264.9 million.
5. Toy Story 3 (Disney/Pixar): $11.7 million down 44% in its fifth weekend at 3,177 theaters. $3,696 theater average. Domestic total: $362.7 million.
6. Grown Ups (Sony): $10 million down 37% in its fourth weekend at 3,074 theaters. $3,253 theater average. Domestic total: $129.3 million.
7. The Last Airbender (Paramount): $7.45 million down 55% in its third weekend at 2,805 theaters. $2,656 theater average. Domestic total: $114.8 million.
8. Predators (Fox):$6.8 million down 73% in its second weekend at 2,669 theaters. $2,548 theater average. Domestic total: $40.1 million.
9. Knight & Day (Fox): $3.7 million down 52% in its fourth weekend at 1,925 theaters. $1,922 theater average. Domestic total: $69.2 million.
10. The Karate Kid (Sony): $2.2 million down 59% in its sixth weekend at 1,532 theaters. $1,436 theater average. Domestic total: $169.2 million.