A bumbling prehistoric family and a terrorist takeover of the White House galvanized weekend moviegoers as new entries The Croods and Olympus Has Fallen took the top two spots at the North American box office.
Croods opened to a solid $44.7 million from 4,406 theaters after receiving a pleasing A CinemaScore. That's welcome news for Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation, whose previous film Rise of the Guardians was a box-office dud.
Following the travails of a prehistoric family, Croods is the first DWA title to be distributed by Fox via the studio's new distribution and marketing deal with Katzenberg's company. The voice cast is led by Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone and Nicolas Cage.
The animated 3D tentpole, opening just ahead of DWA's March 2010 event pic How to Train Your Dragon ($43.7 million), is benefiting from a dearth of family product in the marketplace, evidenced by a sizeable 63 percent family bump from Friday to Saturday.
Fox and DWA are anticipating strong midweek business thanks to spring break and millions of kids being out of school. Croods cost a reported $135 million to make.
Antoine Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen overperformed in its debut, grossing $30.5 million from 3,098 theaters to become one of the few R-rated action pics of the year to work so far. The movie also marks a comeback for Gerard Butler, who has suffered a string of box office bombs.
Olympus Has Fallen, receiving an A- CinemaScore and fueled by older moviegoers, also marks the biggest opening to date for distributor 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.
New Paul Weitz specialty comedy Admission, starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, opened on the soft side, grossing $6.4 million to place No. 5. Focus Features had hoped for slightly more, but believes Admission will benefit from word of mouth among older females. 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 $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. The pic's cume is $5.4 million.
Below are the top 10 estimates for the March 15-17 weekend at the domestic box office.
Title, weeks in release/theater count, studio, three-day weekend total, cume
1. The Croods, 1/4,046, Fox/DreamWorks Animation, $44.7 million
2. Olympus Has Fallen, 1/3,098, FilmDistrict, $30.5 million
3. Oz the Great and Powerful, 3/3,805, Disney, $22 million, $177.6 million
4. The Call, 2/2,507, Sony/TriStar, $8.7 million, $30.9 million
5. Admission, 1/2,160, Focus Features, $6.4 million
6. Spring Breakers, 2/1,104, A24 Films, $5 million, $5.4 million
7. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, 2/3,160, Warner Bros./New Line, $4.3 million, $17.4 million
8. Jack the Giant Slayer, 4/2,560, Warner Bros./New Line, $3 million, $59 million,
9. Identity Thief, 7/2,166, Universal, $2.5 million, $127.7 million
10. Snitch, 5/1,807, Lionsgate/Participant, $1.9 million, $40.3 million