Hollywood this weekend offered up one of its biggest comedy stars, a teen heartthrob and a 3-D spectacle for kids, but none of them could displace "Inception" from the top of the box-office charts.
For the third weekend in a row, director Christopher Nolan's mind-bending thriller was No. 1, as ticket sales declined a modest 36% to a studio-estimated $27.5 million.
The Steve Carell-Paul Rudd comedy "Dinner for Schmucks" performed best among the weekend's new movies, opening to a decent $23.3 million. The kid-friendly 3-D sequel "Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" flopped with just $12.5 million, and the Zac Efron tearjerker "Charlie St. Cloud" lost momentum quickly after a good Friday and ended up with a soft $12.1 million.
"Inception" has already grossed more than three times its opening weekend take, usually considered a mark of success for any film. A $300-million domestic take remains well within its grasp.
This week's Saturday matinees were stronger in relation to the overall weekend than they had been the last two weeks, indicating that the complex drama about dreams within dreams may be drawing a slightly more diverse audience than the mostly young adult crowds that embraced the movie on its opening weekend.
"Inception" also demonstrated prowess outside the U.S. this weekend, as it opened to a strong $7.1 million in Germany and enjoyed small declines of just 23% in Great Britain, 17% in South Korea and 19% in Australia. In total, the Leonardo DiCaprio-led picture grossed $53.7 million overseas this weekend and brought its foreign total to $170 million.
" 'Inception' is doing just great for us, and 'Cats and 'Dogs' was a little disappointing," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.
Indeed, "Kitty Galore" will go down as one of the summer's box-office bombs, along with such disappointments as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "Knight & Day" and "Jonah Hex." Warner and its partner Village Roadshow Pictures are almost certain to lose a significant amount of money on the $85 million they spent to produce the digital-effects-heavy James Bond spoof for kids.
Despite the benefit of surcharges on 3-D screens and nine years of ticket price inflation, "Kitty Galore" opened to 42% less than the original "Cats and Dogs" in 2001.
"Dinner for Schmucks" earned just a bit below the $25.2-million opening of Carell's last comedy, "Date Night," in April. That movie went on to gross a very healthy $98.5 million. "Schmucks," a long-in-the-works remake of a popular French play and movie, will need to buck the odds to get that far, particularly with another high-profile comedy, "The Other Guys" starring Will Ferrell, opening Friday.
"Luckily, Steve Carell tends to play a little older than Will Ferrell, and there are not a lot of other big openings coming for the rest of the summer," observed Rob Moore, vice chairman of "Schmucks" distributor Paramount Pictures.
Paramount, DreamWorks Studios and Spyglass Entertainment spent about $69 million to produce "Schmucks," a figure brought down to $62.7 million with the benefit of tax credits. Audiences were fairly diverse, with 55% men and 54% over 25, and those who came opening night gave it an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Its prospects for a long run based on strong word of mouth are mixed.
The mostly young and female audience for "Charlie St. Cloud," which stars Efron as a young man trying to overcome the death of his brother, gave the picture a solid B+. But ticket sales plummeted 32% from Friday to Saturday, one of the highest such drops ever and usually a sign that a film will disappear from theaters fast.
Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent a relatively modest $44 million to make "Charlie St. Cloud," meaning it won't be a major money loser like "Cats and Dogs."
"We planned for it to drop less on Saturday, but it ended up grossing what it was supposed to," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's domestic distribution president.
The Angelina Jolie action thriller "Salt" came in third this weekend as ticket sales declined 47%, a bit better than normal for a summer event movie, to $19.3 million.
Overseas, "Salt" opened in several major foreign markets and took in a solid $6.5 million in South Korea and $5.5 million in Russia, but a less impressive $3.9 million in Japan.
"Toy Story 3" continues to be huge internationally, as it racked up an additional $39.1 million this weekend, bringing its foreign box-office total to $436.4 million. It has been No. 1 for four straight weeks in Japan and two in Great Britain.