Even the Maya would have struggled to forecast an opening weekend this big.
Sony Pictures' "2012," the latest end-of-the-world epic from disaster director Roland Emmerich, took in $65 million in the U.S. and Canada and an earth-shattering $160 million elsewhere for a worldwide weekend total of $225 million.
The 162-minute thriller, based on a purported Maya prophecy that the world will end Dec. 21, 2012, will easily make back its production and marketing costs for Sony long before that date rolls around. The movie cost about $200 million to make and tens of millions more to market. Most industry observers and pre-release forecasts had "2012" opening above $50 million domestically.
It has yet to open in several major international markets, including Japan.
"It's going to be a very big success for our studio," said Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution president.
For Emmerich, "2012" had his second-biggest domestic opening, behind his 2004 disaster film "The Day After Tomorrow," which opened to almost $70 million. However, that end-of-the-world movie was released on a three-day holiday weekend.
Walt Disney Co.'s "A Christmas Carol," which did not have the best of starts last weekend, had a strong second week, pulling in $22.3 million. That's a decline of only 26% and a good sign that the holiday remake should have a healthy theatrical run. About 14% of the movie's box-office take came from Imax screens.
"It absolutely played the way we thought it would," said Chuck Viane, president of domestic distribution for Walt Disney Studios. Though last week's $31-million opening was by no means small, the consensus was that it should have opened bigger and that perhaps moviegoers weren't quite in the holiday spirit a mere week after Halloween. Viane said the studio wanted to get six weeks on 3-D screens before 20th Century Fox's "Avatar" premiered.
The indie movie "Precious," which Lionsgate bought at Sundance for about $5.5 million, took in about $6.1 million in just 174 theaters in nine cities for an impressive $35,000 per-screen average. The drama, with Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry as executive producers, will expand to 600 theaters in 100 markets next weekend. It finished fourth, just behind Overture's George Clooney comedy "The Men Who Stare at Goats," which took in $6.2 million in wide release.
"The exit polls from last weekend indicated strong word-of-mouth," said David Spitz, Lionsgate's executive vice president who oversees distribution. "Precious," about a Harlem girl trying to overcome an abusive family, is already seen as a big Oscar favorite.
Also having a strong opening in limited release was 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which made its debut at four theaters in New York and Los Angeles and took in $260,000, for a $65,000 per-screen average. It will open wide the day before Thanksgiving.
Lost at sea was "Pirate Radio" from Focus Features, which made just $2.9 million at almost 900 theaters. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, the movie about illegal radio stations in Britain boasts a great soundtrack but apparently wasn't exactly what the iPod generation was looking for this weekend.
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Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada:
*--* Movie 3-day gross Percentage Total Days in release change from (studio) (millions) last weekend (millions) 1 2012 $65 NA $65 3 (Sony) 2 A Christmas $22.3 -26% $63.3 10 Carol (Disney) 3 The Men Who $6.2 -51% $23.4 10 Stare at Goats (Overture/BBC/ Winchester Capital) 4 Precious $6.1 +225% $8.9 10 (Lionsgate) 5 This Is It $5.1 -61% $67.2 20 (Sony) 6 The Fourth Kind $4.7 -61% $20.6 10 (Universal) 7 Couples Retreat $4.3 -31% $102.1 38 (Universal/Rel ativity) 8 Paranormal $4.2 -49% $103.8 52 Activity (Paramount) 9 Law Abiding $3.9 -35% $67.3 31 Citizen (Overture) 10 The Box $3.2 -58% $13.2 10 (Warner Bros.) *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $140 -5.7% $8.9 +7% *--*
*--* Sources: Times research and Hollywood.com Box Office Los Angeles Times *--*