Facing an overcrowded marketplace for family fare, DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox's Turbo opened to $5.6 million on Wednesday, enough to edge out out Universal's blockbuster Despicable Me 2 and top the North American box office.
Turbo, an original title that hopes to launch a new franchise, is on course for a subdued five-day opening in the $35 million range. Instead of a huge launch, DWA and Fox are counting on the 3D animated pic to have strong legs and play throughout the rest of summer.
Aiding that goal, Turbo received a glowing A CinemaScore, and an A+ from moviegoers under the age of 18.
Costing $135 million to produce and directed by David Soren, Turbo is about an ordinary garden snail whose dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500 comes true. Ryan Reynolds voices the title role; Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg, Michael Pena, Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez and Samuel L. Jackson also lend their voices. DWA is playing up the fact that Turbo is an original story.
Despicable 2 grossed an estimated $5.5 million on Wednesday, coming in a close No. 2. The toon has grossed just north of $246 million domestically and will cross the $250 million mark sometime on Thursday or Friday. Worldwide, the film's cume is nearly $500 million.
Box office observers believe Turbo could suffer from animation fatigue, considering it opens only two weeks after Despicable 2 and four weeks after Disney and Pixar's Monsters University, both of which have the advantage of being sequels.
Despicable 2, which rolled during the Fourth of July holiday stretch, grossed a mammoth $143.1 million in its first five days, while Monsters University debuted to just north of $82 million.
Wall Street analysts are paying close attention to Turbo's performance. As of midday Thursday, DWA's stock was up 2 percent at $24.83.
Hollywood studios have never released so many summer animation tentpoles, and the unprecedented animation race gets a new player in two weeks when Sony's The Smurfs 2 hits theaters, followed two weeks after that by Disney's Planes.
Turbo opened midweek to get a jump on three films opening this weekend; Universal's troubled tentpole R.I.P.D., New Line's horror entry The Conjuring, which could easily overperform, and Lionsgate's Red 2, all of which begin rolling out Thursday night.