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'Thor' rules again, but 'Bridesmaids' have fun

The Marvel character film stays No. 1 in its second week. 'Bridesmaids' opens better than expected.

May 16, 2011|Amy Kaufman

Big-budget studio tent poles continue to reign at the box office this summer, as "Thor" outmuscled the competition for the second consecutive weekend.

After its thunderous opening last weekend, the 3-D film about a Norse god again proved to be most popular with moviegoers, collecting an additional $34.5 million and bringing its North American tally to $119.3 million, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures.

That was enough to strike down the Judd Apatow-produced comedy "Bridesmaids," which stars "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kristen Wiig and opened to a better-than-expected $24.4 million. The weekend's other new film in wide release, the 3-D "Priest," had a disappointing opening domestically. The movie, which cost about $60 million to make, is the most expensive production to date from Sony Pictures' Screen Gems label -- but it only collected a weak $14.5 million in ticket sales.

Ticket sales for "Thor" fell 48% on its second weekend in theaters -- a modest drop for a big-budget action movie. Last summer, for example, "Iron Man 2" -- another film based on a Marvel comic book -- dropped 59% on its second weekend.

Overseas, "Thor" passed the $200-million mark, grossing an additional $27.5 million in 60 foreign markets to bring its international total to $225 million. That the movie continues to perform well at the box office is important to Walt Disney Co., considering that its Marvel Entertainment spent about $150 million to produce the film.

Meanwhile, another event movie, "Fast Five," is maintaining speed at the box office. After three weeks in theaters, it raked in an additional $19.5 million to bring its domestic total to $168.8 million. The film featuring fast cars has made even more abroad: It played in 61 foreign markets this weekend and grossed $58 million, so its international total is now $271.7 million. That means "Fast Five" has now collected more in worldwide ticket sales than any of the previous films in the "Fast" franchise. The fourth installment ended up with $363.2 million globally; "Fast Five's" worldwide tally is $440.5 million after just 25 days in release.

Because there have been few R-rated female-driven comedies at the box office, Universal Pictures was unsure of how well "Bridesmaids" would perform. The studio had estimated the film would gross only about $15 million this weekend despite overwhelmingly positive reviews. (The movie currently has a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)

"There's no model for a film like this -- an R-rated comedy directed at women, not males," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's domestic distribution president. "We didn't have anything to compare it to. And now I think this breaks new ground -- designing something for a female audience is not the tradition, and it presents something fresh for Hollywood."

"Bridesmaids," about a comical group of women helping their friend prepare for her wedding, appealed mostly to females -- the audience was made up of 67% women, and 63% of the crowd was older than 30. Those who saw the film seemed to like it, giving it an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The movie was produced by Universal and Relativity Media for $32.5 million, meaning it is off to a decent start at the box office.

The film's opening is good news for star Wiig. Best known for her eclectic "SNL" characters, the actress had never before had a leading role in a film, although she'd put in memorable cameos in movies, including Apatow's "Knocked Up." "Bridesmaids" is also one of the better recent openings for the filmmaker. The last three films he's been involved with -- "Year One," "Funny People" and "Get Him to the Greek" -- all opened to less than $23 million. Still, the film's debut falls short of some of the openings for other Apatow films. "Step Brothers" and "Superbad," both of which he produced, and "Knocked Up," which he also wrote and directed, all premiered to around $30 million.

"Priest," which stars Paul Bettany as a clergyman who hunts vampires, failed to resonate with as many moviegoers. The movie did slightly better with males, who were 57% of the audience. Those who saw the film did not seem to like it, giving it an average grade of C-plus, which does not bode well for word of mouth in the weeks to come.

Screen Gems took a gamble on "Priest," as the distributor typically spends less than $40 million making its movies. "Priest" is the second big-budget movie from Screen Gems, as it was just slightly less expensive to produce than last fall's "Burlesque." That $55-million musical starring Cher and Christina Aguilera brought in only a modest $89.3 million worldwide.

But "Priest" could make up some ground overseas, said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' distribution president.

"We always felt that this picture had a great upside, both for the Asian market as well as Russia, because these type of visceral 3-D rides seem to play really well in certain parts of the world," said Bruer.

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