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Weekend Box Office: ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ Surpasses Universal’s Lowball Projections

Weekend Box Office: 'Snow White and the Huntsman' Surpasses Universal's Lowball Projections

Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” cast its spell on the weekend box office as it flew past early projections. The fantasy action-adventure film — a revisionist take on the classic fairy tale — racked up an estimated $56.3 million to easily capture the top spot. Heading into the session most observers had “Snow White” opening in the $40 to $45 million range. (See Top Ten box office chart below.)

Sony’s “Men in Black 3” was bumped to the second spot as the Will Smith-starrer generated an estimated $29.3 million on its sophomore frame, down a relatively modest 46% from its opening last week. Thanks to solid midweek numbers and a good hold, the cume to date for the sci-fi action-comedy is a stout $112.3 million after 10 days.  Internationally “MIB3” grossed $78.6 million this weekend, bringing the international cume to $274.6 million and its global gross to a robust $386.9 million.

And Disney’s “The Avengers” moved into the third spot on its fifth weekend with $20.27 million in tow as the mega-blockbuster continued to defy boxoffice gravity.  The record breaking film from Marvel Studios has grossed an estimated $552.7 million domestically and $802.5 million internationally, combining for a stunning $1.36 billion worldwide.  Thanks to premium 3-D prices, domestically “Avengers” is now the third-highest grossing film of all time, behind only “Avatar” and “Titanic”; internationally it’s the fifth highest; and worldwide the super-hero actioner is the third best ever, again behind only “Avatar” and “Titanic.”

But strong returns from this weekend’s top films weren’t enough to outperform the comparable session last year: the overall box office take was down 11%.  The total for all films this weekend is an estimated $142 million, compared with $159.7 million in 2011, when “X-Men First Class,” “Hangover 2,” “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Pirates of the Caribbean 4” were in theaters.

“I am happy that “Snow White” was able to perform at the boxoffice this weekend when tracking was projecting a lower number early on and the marketplace has been soft at times, so we’re very excited about it,” said Nikki Rocco, President of Universal Pictures Distribution.  “We were skittish leading up to the weekend because the projected grosses didn’t look as strong as they turned out to be. The film is quite a unique version of the fairy tale, and that can be attributed to all the great talent that worked on this picture.”

Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth star in the PG-13 rated “Snow White,” which was produced by Joe Roth and helmed by first-timer Rupert Sanders.  Stewart is best known for her role in the blockbuster franchise “Twilight” films, while Theron’s biggest opening is “Hancock” with $62.6 million back in 2008, and which went onto to gross $227.9 million domestically.  Prior to “Snow White” and since “Hancock,” Theron has starred in four low-budget films that didn’t played more than 1,000 theaters, so this is her first venture in a big-budget mainstream film in roughly five years.

Hemsworth’s box-office record is off the charts with the $207.4 million opening of superhero ensemble “The Avengers,” and before that Marvel’s “Thor” debuted with $65.7 million.

With a reported budget of around $170 million, “Snow White” is the second most expensive film released by Universal this year, after the $209 million “Battleship,” which has been a big disappointment at the domestic boxoffice with just $55.1 million to date. Early international receipts have been the saving grace for the Peter Berg actioner, collecting $235 million, making for a worldwide gross to date of $290.1 million. Following Disney’s write-off of $200 million for “John Carter,” Universal could absorb a “Battleship” write-off as high as $150 million, reminding studios that increasing their bets on tentpoles does carry considerable risk.

The strong opening for “Snow White” is more impressive considering that no higher priced 3 D tickets were in the mix and the picture was not a sequel nor a franchise, and just a few months earlier another film was released that was also based on the same classic fable.

Relativity Media’s “Mirror Mirror,” starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins, took a lighter, more comedic family approach to the fairy tale and opened with a modest $18.1 million, going on to collect $62.5 million domestically, and did better overseas with $97.9 million, for a worldwide total of $160.4 million.  But compared with “Snow White’s” reported budget of $170 million, the Tarsem helmed “Mirror” cost a relatively restrained $100 million to produce.

Internationally “Snow White” is in the early stages of its rollout and gleaned an estimated $39.3 million from 45 territories–the largest was the UK’s $5.5 million–and was the number one film in 30 of those markets. The estimated worldwide cume is $95.6 million.

Looking down the road, “Snow White” should show some legs, although it generated a modest ‘B’ CinemaScore from moviegoers.  The audience was slightly more female (53%) and slightly older (52% were age 30 or more).  According to RottenTomatoes.com, a low 46% of critics gave the film a positive nod, not enough for a Fresh rating.

Next weekend shows promise: expectations are high for the opening of Fox’s “Prometheus” from director Ridley Scott, which also stars Theron, and for family audiences, Paramount’s “Madagascar 3” from DreamWorks.

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