With spring break in full force, the domestic box office roared to life on Friday as 3D animated tentpole The Croods took in $11.6 million, followed closely by White House action pic Olympus Has Fallen with $10.6 million.
Croods, from DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox, is now expected to open to a solid $43 million.
That's welcome news for Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation, whose previous film Rise of the Guardians was a box-office dud. Wall Street is paying close attention to Croods, with most analysts agreeing that a North American opening of $40 million or more would suffice in combination with a strong international run.
Croods, costing at least $135 million to produce, opens around the world this weekend. No numbers are yet available.
Following the travails of a prehistoric family, Croods is the first DWA title to be distributed by Fox via their new distribution and marketing deal. The voice cast is led by Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone and Nicolas Cage.
Croods hopes to benefit from a dearth of family product in the marketplace. It is also aiming to do brisk weekday business because of spring break.
Antoine Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen is overperforming in its debut, making a comeback for Gerard Butler, who has suffered a string of box office bombs. The film, receiving an A- CinemaScore, is expected to earn $28 million for the weekend, the strongest opening yet for FilmDistrict.
Millennium Films fully financed and produced the $70 million pic, which features Butler as a disgraced presidential guard who is called back into action when North Korean terrorists take over the White House. Roland Emmerich's White House Down, opening in June, is similarly themed.
Olympus Has Fallen also stars Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo and Ashley Judd.
Focus Features' new Paul Weitz comedy Admission, starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, is opening on the soft side, grossing $2 million on Friday for a projected $6.3 million weekend and coming in No. 5. Focus had hoped for slightly more, but believes Admission will benefit from good word of mouth and have solid legs. However, moviegoers only gave the film a B- CinemaScore, matching mixed reviews.
Focus' financial exposure is limited considering Admission, playing in more than 2,000 theaters, cost a modest $13 million to produce. The comedy tells the story of a straitlaced Princeton University admissions officer (Fey) whose life takes an unexpected turn when she makes a recruiting trip to an alternative high school run by a former classmate (Rudd).
Harmony Korine's outrageous indie comedy Spring Breakers, which expanded nationwide Friday, isn't that far behind Admission despite only playing in only about 1,100 theaters. The R-rated pic grossed $1.9 million Friday for a projected weekend gross of $5 million, a solid number for upstart distributor A25 Films.
Spring Breakers, starring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson, scored the best limited release of the year last weekend when opening in three theaters in New York and Los Angeles.