Universal's ultra-low budget home-invasion thriller "The Purge" powered to a scary-good $16.7 million in its debut Friday and is heading for a $35 million first weekend.
That would mean the studio's first movie to come out of its deal with "Paranormal Activity" producer Jason Blum will make more than 10 times its $3 million production budget – in its first three days. It's doing it at just 2,536 theaters, while most of the other films are in at least 3,000.
The PG-13 Fox comedy "The Internship" was in a tight race for second with "Fast & Furious 6," the No. 1 film for the last two weeks, and the magic-themed heist thriller "Now You See Me." Several holdover movies had strong Fridays, suggesting audiences are catching up with some movies in the crowded summer marketplace.
"The Purge" received just a "C" grade from its audiences, but that's standard for horror films. The R-rated thriller stars Ethan Hawke ("Sinister") and Lena Headley from TV's "Game of Thrones." James DeMonaco wrote and directed the future-set tale of a family held hostage during a 12-hour period in which all crime is legalized.
It got a big boost from the $3.4 million it rang up at late shows on Thursday night, and its strong social media presence in the days leading up to its release is clearly translating to the box office.
The reteaming of "Wedding Crashers" stars Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn took in $6.6 million Friday and is on track for a first weekend in the $20 million range.
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That's ahead of analysts' expectations, which had dropped to the mid-teen millions in the wake of withering reviews. But audiences at 3,365 theaters liked it more than the critics, and gave it a "B+"CinemaScore.
"Fast & Furious 6" and "Now You See Me" were neck-and-neck with "The Internship."
Universal's cars-and-criminals sequel also was headed for the $20 million range after taking in $6 million Friday. It will cross the $200 million mark at the domestic box office this weekend and has rolled up $520 million at the worldwide box office in just three weeks.
Just behind that was Summit Entertainment's "Now You See Me." which also took in $6 million Friday and looks to be holding very well from its surprising $28 million opening last week. If it stays on its currrent pace, its overall total will top $60 million by the end of the weekend.
Fox's animated "Epic" is still the only PG-rated family movie playing, and it added another $4 million Friday and is heading for a weekend in the $15 million range and fifth place. Its overall domestic total is more than $86 million after three weeks.
Also holding well was Paramount's "Star Trek Into Darkness," which is looking at an $11 million three-day total after bringing in $3.3 million Friday. Its overall domestic total is now more than $188 million and it is at $335 million globally.
Sony's Will and Jaden Smith sci-fi adventure "After Earth" brought in $3.3 million Friday and also is on course for about $11 million in its second week. That would be a roughly 60 percent drop-off from its soft debut.
"Iron Man 3" and "The Great Gatsby" rounded out the top ten. Disney's Marvel superhero sequel has taken in more than $1.18 billion at the worldwide box office in six weeks, and "Gatsby" has brought in more than $250 million after five weeks.
In the specialty market, Joss Whedon's Shakespeare update "Much Ado About Nothing" debuted with $71,000 on five screens for Roadside Attractions, a solid $14,197 per-screen average.