Hawke Horror Flick Outsells Vaughn-Wilson Comedy

“The Purge,” the low-budget horror movie, topped film sales in the U.S. and Canada this past weekend as the Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson comedy “The Internship” came in fourth for Twentieth Century Fox.

“The Purge,” the first in a partnership between Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures and Jason Blum, producer of “Paranormal Activity,” beat forecasts with $34.1 million in ticket sales, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said in a statement today. “The Internship,” from News Corp.’s Fox and Regency Enterprises, had $17.3 million in its debut, not enough to beat holdovers “Fast & Furious 6” and “Now You See Me.”

Strong opening-night sales for “The Purge,” which Universal Pictures projected to gross in the mid- to high-teens, was the first indication “that this was going to be bigger than anybody expected,” said Nikki Rocco, president of distribution. “As we watched the matinee numbers come in on Friday, it was obvious this was going to be a solid hit and by then we were out-grossing everybody.”

Starring Ethan Hawke, “The Purge” was made for $3 million and, like past Blum successes such as the “Paranormal Activity” series, “Insidious” and “Sinister,” it focuses on storytelling while using few special effects. The movie also benefited from weak competition as studios avoided introducing major films ahead of this coming weekend’s release of “Man of Steel,” Warner Bros.’s reboot of the Superman franchise.

Lawless Land

“The Blumhouse team really develops good, high-concept films,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com. “These are very basic stories. You watch the trailer for ‘The Purge’ and you know what you are going to get.”

The film will struggle to hold its audience next weekend with the debut of “Man of Steel” because of the overlap in viewers with that movie, Contrino said. Given the film’s tiny budget, one weekend may be all “The Purge” needs. Contrino had raised his forecast for the film to as much as $30 million from $21 million based on reports of strong opening-day sales.

“The Purge” is set in a future U.S. where all laws are suspended for one night a year to allow people to vent their rage and anger. Police take the night off. Hawke stars as the husband whose home is besieged after his son breaks the rules by giving shelter to a man being chased by a murderous gang.

‘The Internship’

“We knew based on tracking surveys that there was really, really strong interest to see the film as we were leading into the last couple of weeks,” Rocco said, crediting a strong Twitter following with helping to boost ticket sales. “But the truth of the matter is, you never never expect anything at this level.”

News Corp.’s “The Internship,” made for $58 million, beat the $15.6 million opening-weekend forecast by Boxoffice.com.

“We are pleased with the opening,” said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox. “We had expected the opening in the midteens.”

It stars Vaughn and Wilson as unemployed forty-somethings who gain coveted internships at Google Inc. The technologically challenged buddies quickly find themselves outclassed by new college graduates competing for a few full-time jobs.

“It was the latest in a recent string of mainstream comedy releases from each actor that failed to draw big crowds like their earlier hits had,” according to Box Office Guru’s Gitesh Pandya.

Sales Down

Google cooperated with the filmmakers, allowing portions to be shot at its Mountain View, California, headquarters and Sergey Brin, co-founder of the search company, makes a cameo appearance. Critics have panned the film, which is directed by Shawn Levy with a script by Vaughn and Jared Stern, saying the humor is stale and the story too adoring of Google. Of the 98 reviews compiled on Rottentomatoes.com, 66 were negative.

“Google, the corporate entity, is so lovingly portrayed that the film itself resembles nothing so much as a massive product tie-in,” wrote Christian Science Monitor critic Peter Rainer.

Among returning films, “Fast and Furious 6” fell to second with $19.6 million in sales after two weeks in first place. The film, also from Universal, has taken in $202.8 million since it was released on May 24.

“Now You See Me,” from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., dropped to third from second, taking in $19 million.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 18 percent to $143.3 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Attendance is down 5.9 percent year to date, while revenue is 6.2 percent lower at $4.37 billion.

The following table has U.S. and Canadian movie box office figures provided by studios to Hollywood.com Box-Office. The amounts are based on actual sales for June 7 through yesterday.

                  Rev.               Avg./    Pct.   Total
   Movie          (mln)   Theaters  Theater    Chg.   (mln)  Wks
1 THE PURGE        34.1    2,536   13,430     --     34.1    1
2 FAST & FURIOUS   19.6    3,771    5,205    -44    202.8    3
3 NOW YOU SEE ME   19.0    3,020    6,305    -35     60.9    2
4 THE INTERNSHIP   17.3    3,366    5,147     --     17.3    1
5 EPIC             11.9    3,594    3,304    -29     83.9    3
6 STAR TREK        11.4    3,152    3,625    -32    199.9    4
7 AFTER EARTH      10.7    3,401    3,150    -61     46.1    2
8 THE HANGOVER     7.3     3,242    2,265    -55    102.3    3
9 IRON MAN 3       5.8     2,351    2,447    -32    394.3    6
10 GREAT GATSBY    4.2     2,160    1,955    -35    136.2    5
11 MUD             1.1       580    1,979     -5     18.5    7
12 YEH JAWAANI HAI 0.8       161    4,989    -49      2.9    2

Top 12 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $143.3 $174.2 -17.7

Year-to-date Revenue

2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $4,373 $4,660 -6.2 Year-to-date Attendance: -5.9% Source: Hollywood.com Box-Office