The Adam Sandler comedy "Grown Ups 2" stole the box office show from "Pacific Rim" with a $16.5 million debut Friday. That puts it on pace for a $46 million total and gives it the inside track for the weekend crown.
Guillermo del Toro's giant robots-vs.-monsters 3D epic ran second on Friday, with strong late shows lifting it to $14.6 million for its first full day. That translates to a three-day total in the $37 million range for the $180 million tentpole from Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.
That's below projections, most of which were around $40 million, and probably not enough to catch last week's No. 1 movie "Despicable Me 2," which took in $13 million on Friday.
The animated sequel from Illumination Entertainment and Universal should get a big family crowd boost on Saturday and Sunday, and will likely finish second at around $43 million. It's run up more than $400 million globally since opening on July 3, split almost evenly between domestic and foreign.
"Pacific Rim" received an "A-" CinemaScore from first night audiences, which should help with word-of-mouth. But the Friday numbers -- swelled by $3.6 million from Thursday evening shows -- suggest the movie will have a tough time expanding beyond is core audience of young boys and Del Toro fans.
It was in 3,275 theaters, 331 of which were Imax and provided a premium ticket price boost. Sony's "Grown Ups 2" was in 3,491 and "Despicable Me 2" remained in a market-high 4,003 theaters.
Warner Bros is counting on a big international performance from "Pacific Rim," which should get a boost from Del Toro's significant international following. It grossed $11.5 million Friday in 38 markets, and its total after two days is $19.3 million. Russia is the top territory with $4.1 million and Korea is next with $3.1 million. Del Toro's home country Mexico added $1.3 million Friday.
Barring a major reversal, "Pacific Rim" will be the third box-office misfire for a big-budget tentpole in as many weeks, coming on the heels of last weekend's disappointing debut of Disney's $225 million "Lone Ranger" and Sony's "White House Down" the week before that.
A big part of that is the intense competition this summer, which is filled with $100 million-plus would-be blockbusters. The overall box office remains healthy -- summer is running about 13 percent ahead of 2012 -- and Friday's numbers continued that trend. The weekend should wind up around $200 million overall, nearly 30 percent over last year's comparable weekend, when "Ice Age: Continental Drift" opened to $46 million.
Critics battered "Grown Ups 2" – it has a 7 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes – but audiences gave it a "B" CinemaScore and with the big Friday turnout underscored the disconnect between reviewers and Sandler fans. That's the same grade as the original film, which did $14 million on is first day and went on to a $40 million opening in 2010.
Friday's strong showing -- particularly since it was competing with the R-rated Melissa McCarthy-Sandra Bullock comedy "The Heat" -- signals a box-office turnaround for Sandler.
He voiced Dracula in Sony's surprising animated hit "Hotel Transylvania," but his last two live-action efforts – "Jack and Jill" and "That's My Boy" – have disappointed. The latter film was R-rated and a bid by Sandler to broaden his youthful base, but it came up short. Reteamed with Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Space, the PG-13-rated sequel seems right in his wheelhouse.
"Grown Ups 2" has an $80 million production budget.
Fox's "The Heat" brought in $4.2 million Friday and is looking at a weekend in the $13 million range.
Disney's Johnny Depp-Armie Hammer action Western "The Lone Ranger" was next with $3.5 million Friday, which means it will finish at around $10.5 million for the weekend. The studio's Pixar family film "Monsters University" brought in $3.3 million Friday and, with a family boost on Saturday and Sunday, will likely finish at around the same number.
In its fourth week, Brad Pitt's zombie thriller "World War Z" was seventh Friday at $2.8 million and is also looking at around $10 million for the three days. It's domestic total is at $170 million, and its global haul is more than $375 million.
Sony's "White House Down," which should finish at $6 million for the weekend, was next, followed by the Lionsgate concert film "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" and Warner Bros. "Man of Steel," which has brought in nearly $600 million globally in five weeks.