Good Friday turned out to be better than good for Jon M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
From Paramount, the action bonanza took in $15.5 million Friday for a projected four-day debut in the $50 million range or better.
G.I. Joe, with a cast led by franchise newcomers Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, got a jump on the holiday frame by opening Thursday. The Paramount picture took in $10.5 million on its first day, which puts the movie's two-day cume at $26 million.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra opened to $54.7 million in 2009, but that film was released during the summer play period in early August 2009. The film (earning a B+ CinemaScore) ultimately took in $150.2 million domestically and $152.3 million internationally for a total of $302.5 million.
G.I. Joe also is opening in most international markets (75 percent) and is anticipating a global bow in the $100 million range. Paramount financed and produced the film with MGM and Skydance Productions in association with Hasbro. Producers are Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Brian Goldner.
D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce and Ray Stevenson also star in the sequel.
G.I. Joe originally was set to open last summer, but the studio pushed back the release in order to convert it to 3D and refashion Channing Tatum's role. Originally, his character was killed off, but after the star's box-office status surged thanks to The Vow and 21 Jump Street, Paramount and its partners decided to make the character's fate more ambiguous.
Paramount already is anticipating that G.I. Joe will hit $200 million internationally, notably more than the original.
The studio says it minimized its risk overall by keeping G.I. Joe's budget to roughly $130 million; Cobra cost at least $175 million. Paramount put up half the money for the sequel, while MGM and David Ellison's Skydance each put up a 25 percent share.
Animated event pic The Croods generated big business on Good Friday, falling only 8 percent to come in No. 2. From DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox, the family film took in $10.7 million for a domestic total of $72.8 million. Croods is expected to gross $28 million for the weekend.
Opening on Good Friday were writer-director Tyler Perry's Temptation -- a marked departure from the filmmaker's comedic fare -- and director Andrew Niccol's sci-fi thriller The Host, adapted from Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's novel.
From Lionsgate, Temptation grossed a solid $9.4 million for a projected three-day opening of $21.8 million. The pic placed No. 3 and earned an A- CInemaScore.
Temptation stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Friday Night Lights) as a restless marriage counselor who begins a dangerous affair with a social media mogul (Robbie Jones). Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams also star.
Lionsgate targeted women and African-Americans in marketing the film. The studio also took advantage of Kardashian's celebrity profile.
It is the fourth Perry film that Lionsgate has released over Easter weekend.
The Host, starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons and Jake Abel, is pacing to open in the $13 million to $14 million range after grossing roughly $5.3 million on Friday. Coming in No. 4, the film only earned a B- CinemaScore.
Open Road Films is distributing the film on behalf of producers Nick Wechsler, Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz and Inferno Entertainment. Meyer also is a producer and has tirelessly promoted the project, which marks her first post-Twilight outing.
Set in a society where parasitic aliens known as "Souls" inhabit humans, The Host is appealing primarily to females (Meyer's fan base). The story follows a "Soul" who finds it impossible to entirely banish the human girl she inhabits.