Brad Pitt's zombie thriller "World War Z" blew past expectations with nearly $25 million on its first day at the box office Friday, and is heading for a $65 million opening weekend. But that won't be enough for the top spot.
Disney's "Monsters University" is doing better than expected as well. The 3D animated family movie is on pace for an opening weekend north of $75 million, after debuting with an estimated $30 million Friday. That would make it the 14th consecutive Pixar film to open at No. 1, and the storied animation unit's second-largest debut ever, behind only 2010's "Toy Story 3" with $110 million.
Last week's No. 1 movie, "Man of Steel," brought in $12.4 million from a market-high 4,207 theaters Friday, and is looking at a three-day total in the $40 million range. That's a steep 71 percent drop from last week for the Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' Superman sequel, which has taken in $181 million domestically in just over a week.
The overall box office is pacing nearly 45 percent of the comparable weekend last year, when "Brave" debuted to $66 million and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer" was No. 2.
"Monsters University" received an "A" CinemaScore from first-night audiences at its 4,004 theaters (2,907 of which were 3D), so word-of-mouth should be strong Saturday and Sunday, when families are expected to turn out in force.
Billy Crystal and John Goodman return as Mike and Sully in this prequel to Disney's 2001 "Monsters Inc.," which opened to $$62 million and went on to bring in $290 million domestically. Dan Scanlon is the director and wrote the screenplay with Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird.
"World War Z," the adaptation of Max Brooks' bestselling novel which stars Pitt as a United Nations worker battling a global zombie pandemic, received a "B+" CinemaScore from audiences in 3,607 theaters. Marc Forster directed.
If it can maintain its current pace, it will be a remarkable turnaround for the $190 million-budgeted action thriller, which was plagued with cost-overruns and expensive re-shoots, including an 11th-hour decision to cook up a new ending. Just two months ago, it was tracking to open at $35 million, but the studio mounted a massive marketing campaign behind it, and days before its debut, analysts had revised their projections up to $50 million.
Pitt's Plan B produced the film, which was co-financed by Skydance Productions, in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films.
Sony's R-rated Seth Rogen comedy "This is the End" was running fourth, after a $4.1 million Friday (a 41 percent drop from last week) put it on track for a $13 million second week. Its domestic total is up to $48.9 million.
Summit Entertainment's magic-themed heist thriller "Now You See Me" was next, taking in $2.4 million Friday, just a 27 percent drop from last week. That puts it on track for a $7.6 million fourth weekend, which would up its domestic total to $94 million.
In its fifth week, Universal's "Fast & Furious 6" raised its overall domestic total to $223 million with a $1.4 million Friday that put it on course for a $4.6 million weekend.
Universal's horror thriller "The Purge," Fox's comedy "The Internship" and Paramount's "Star Trek Into Darkness" were bunched behind those films and looking at three-day totals in the $3 million range.
Disney's blockbuster "Iron Man 3," in its sixth week of release, was battling with A24's "The Bling Ring" for the tenth spot. Both are expected to finish the weekend at around $2 million.