Hollywood got a much needed kick to the 2010 summer box office -- from 1984.
"The Karate Kid," which stars Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in a remake of the 26-year-old family favorite, waxed off the competition to land at No. 1 this weekend with a startling $56 million.
It more than doubled the take of the big-screen version of 1980s TV series "The A-Team" starring Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel and Bradley Cooper, which opened to a soft $26 million.
"Karate Kid" was the first surprise success of what has been a dismal first six weeks of the summer box office season, with many more poor performers, such as "Robin Hood," "Prince of Persia" and "Sex and the City 2," than hits.
"The market has been lackluster for many weeks now, so it's a bit scary to open a film, and you just hope it's going to resonate," said Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony Pictures. "In this case, it certainly did in a big way."
The two new films were running neck-and-neck in pre-release surveys, and conventional wisdom in Hollywood said that best chance for "The Karate Kid" to pull ahead of "The A-Team" would come on Saturday afternoon, since it was likely to appeal more to family audiences that attended matinees.
But nostalgia for crane kicks and flies caught in chopsticks turned out to be stronger than many thought. A surprising 55% of ticket buyers to "Karate Kid" were adults without families, according to exit polls. As a result, "Karate Kid" blew away "A-Team" in Friday ticket sales -- $18.8 million to $9.7 million -- and only extended its lead on Saturday once families started going to matinees.
Audiences loved the film, giving it an average grade of A, according to market-research firm CinemaScore. Sony is optimistic the movie will play well for the next few weeks, meaning it could gross more than $150 million domestically, a huge total given that its production budget was only about $40 million. There is an obstacle, however, in the form of "Toy Story 3," which opens next weekend and will no doubt be a big draw for families.
20th Century Fox is hoping next weekend will be more open for "The A-Team," which drew a primarily adult male crowd but got its best reactions from young males, who gave it an average grade of A (the overall audience gave a B+ to the dismally reviewed film).
"We are very optimistic that as word of mouth spreads, particularly among young people who are unfamiliar with the source material, they're going to discover what a terrific summer action movie this is," said Fox's executive vice president of domestic distribution, Chris Aronson.
Neither of this weekend's new films have opened in most foreign countries, so it remains to be seen how they will resonate with international audiences.
In limited release, the documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" and "Winter's Bone," the Sundance grand jury prize winner, both had solid starts, opening to $171,500 at seven theaters and $87,000 at four theaters, respectively. Both movies played at two theaters in Los Angeles.
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*--* Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada: *--*
*--* Movie 3-day gross Percentage Total Days in (Studio) (millions) change from (millions) release last wknd 1 The Karate Kid $56 NA $56 3 (Sony/China Film)
2 The A-Team $26 NA $26 3 (Fox/Dune)
3 Shrek Forever After $15.8 -38% $210.1 24 (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount )
4 Get Him to the $10.1 -43% $36.5 10 Greek (Universal/Relativi ty/Spyglass)
5 Killers (Lionsgate) $8.2 -48% $30.7 10
6 Prince of Persia $6.6 -53% $72.3 17 (Disney)
7 Marmaduke (Fox/New $6 -48% $22.3 10 Regency)
8 Sex and the City 2 $5.5 -55% $84.7 18 (Warner Bros./New Line/Village Roadshow)
9 Iron Man 2 $4.6 -43% $299.3 38 (Marvel/Paramount)
10 Splice (Dark $2.9 -61% $13.1 10 Castle/Warner Bros.) *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change from Year-to-date Change from (in millions) 2009 gross(in billions) 2009 $153 11% $4.68 3.4% *--*
*--* Sources: Times research and Hollywood.com Box Office Los Angeles Times *--*
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"The Secret in Their Eyes" has turned into a secret box-office success.
Winner of the best foreign-language film Academy Award this year, the Argentine murder-mystery has sold a total of $4.5-million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada so far.
That's about what "The Karate Kid" made in a few hours, of course, but it's more than four of the last five Oscar winners in that category had grossed after the same number of weeks in theaters. Only the 2007 hit "The Lives of Others" did better.
Most remarkably, receipts for "The Secret in Their Eyes" dropped only 6% this weekend, a sign of very good word-of-mouth. It took in an estimated $375,222 at 162 theaters.
As distributor Sony Pictures Classics has slowly added screens for the movie over the last eight weeks, its grosses have never dropped more than 13%. Five out of eight weekends, in fact, they have grown.
Other art-house films doing well include "City Island," "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and "Babies."