Warner Bros.’ action sequel “300: Rise of an Empire,” about the Persian invasion of ancient Greece, topped the box office in its debut, beating DreamWorks Animation SKG (DWA) Inc.’s “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”
Seven years after the box-office success of the first “300” film, “Rise of an Empire” drew $45 million for Warner Bros., Rentrak Corp. (RENT) said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” about the time-traveling adventures of a dog and his adopted son, placed second with $32.5 million for the weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters.
An aggressive marketing campaign by Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s film studio helped push “Rise of an Empire” to the top slot, overcoming mixed reviews and an R rating by drawing female viewers into theaters and offering a 3-D version that boosted ticket revenue. The weekend’s haul surpassed forecasts.
“The box office this weekend far exceeded our expectations of between $35 million and $40 million,” Jeffrey Goldstein, executive vice president for domestic distribution at Warner Bros., said in an interview. “Our gender breakdown of 38 percent female shows you women were interested.”
The first installment of “300” booked $71 million in its debut. “Rise of an Empire” had been forecast to take in $33 million in its opening weekend, according to Boxoffice.com. While only 43 percent of critics gave it a favorable review, 70 percent of fans liked the film, according to Rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates responses.
Screenings in three-dimensional format generated 63 percent of domestic ticket sales, Goldstein said.
The movie is No. 1 at the worldwide box office, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. It gives Warner Bros. another franchise, he said.
“‘300’ felt like a summer movie, like a big-screen action epic, and it drew people that were craving a summer-style movie experience,” Dergarabedian said in an interview. “This is much bigger than expected. It has worldwide appeal.”
Zack Snyder, who directed the first “300” and went on to direct the Superman remake “Man of Steel,” served as co-writer and producer of the sequel. Made for $100 million, according to researcher Box Office Mojo, it features Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green. The films are based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller.
The first “300” grossed more than $456 million worldwide in its 2007 theater run, putting the film in the top 10 for the year, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.
With “Rise of an Empire,” Warner Bros. marks its second No. 1 film debut of the year, following “The Lego Movie,” which fell to fourth from third this weekend with $11 million in ticket sales.
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” also exceeded estimates, having been forecast to generate $28 million for the weekend. The film, distributed by 21st Century Fox Inc., cost DreamWorks Animation about $145 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo.
While it lost out on the top slot in U.S. and Canadian theaters, the film is expected to do well in theaters -- particularly overseas, where strong demand for Hollywood’s animated features has already generated $65.8 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
“There had been concern that ‘Lego’ might have hurt the chances of ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ but it seems to have done the opposite,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst at Box Office.com.
“The Croods,” released a year ago, generated $187 million at the domestic box office and $587 million worldwide for Glendale, California-based DreamWorks Animation, according to Box Office Mojo.
“We have a different marketplace for ‘Mr. Peabody’ than for ‘The Croods,’” said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at 21st Century Fox. “At that time we had the market for family animated films to ourselves and that is not the case this year, so this weekend is a very strong opening.”
Among other returning films, “Non-Stop,” featuring Liam Neeson, generated $15.4 million, falling to third from first. The movie has taken in $52 million domestically for Universal Pictures after two weeks. “Son of God,” released by Fox, dropped to fifth from second place with $10 million.
This weekend also marked the U.S. release of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” by Fox Searchlight.
The comedy, which stars Ralph Fiennes and other A-list actors, took in $800,000 in four theaters.
“It will play well into April and May as a good alternative to the big-studio, hyped-up pictures, Contrino said. Anderson’s latest movie, ‘‘Moonrise Kingdom,’’ generated $45.5 million in ticket sales in 2012.
Fox Searchlight also more than doubled the theaters showing ‘‘12 Years A Slave’’ after it won best picture at the Academy Awards. It took in $2.18 million, more than double the previous weekend, and moved back in to the top 10, even though it is available for home viewing. It has grossed more than $53 million so far in the domestic market.
The weekend box office for all films rose 0.9 percent from a year earlier, according to Rentrak. So far in 2014, revenue has increased 9.9 percent to $1.86 billion.
The box office will get a boost this month with ‘‘Divergent,’’ from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. The film, based on the young-adult science-fiction novel, opens in the U.S. on March 21. Advance ticket sales have outpaced the first ‘‘Twilight,’’ according to online ticket vendor Fandango.
‘‘The film is starting to look stronger than most people anticipated,’’ Contrino said.
The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for March 7 and March 8, and estimates for yesterday.
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