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‘Monsters University’ and ‘The Heat’ Battle for Top Spot at Lagging Summer Box Office

'Monsters University' and 'The Heat' Battle for Top Spot at Lagging Summer Box Office

The release calendar is crowded, and Friday’s numbers show that the intense competition for the top films is not expanding the marketplace. The end result is not the box office bonanza many have been predicting. In fact, the total numbers for the top 10 yesterday fell just under 20% from the same Friday last year. This means that a blockbuster summer is less likely than ever to salvage a weak year. And this is at a time when multiple releases are burdened with unforgiving production budgets exceeding $150 million–and more.

The top two films for the day have the advantage of having discrete audiences. “Monsters University” (Buena Vista) took in $14.3 million to retain the #1 spot, keeping the family audience to itself for a second weekend (that changes when challenger “Despicable Me 2” opens on Wednesday). The Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy comedy “The Heat” (Twentieth Century Fox) capitalized on its popular stars and the dearth of female-centric films to gross $13.6 million, very solid and about 20% ahead of the latter’s last film, “Identity Thief,” which went on to take in $134 million in the U.S./Canada. Still, its opening day is only two-thirds of what “Ted” opened to exactly one year ago, another sign of ongoing box office falloff.

The next three spots show how the intersection of top-end male-oriented action films at the same time is taking its toll. Paramount’s “World War Z” looks to come out ahead for the weekend (falling about 50%), but the opening day (including late night Thursday shows) for Sony’s “White House Down” placed #3 for the day, with $9 million, just slightly ahead of “WWZ.” This is at the low-end for what this $150 million cost film needed, and indeed is below what the same studio’s slightly less expensive “After Earth” amassed its opening day. “Down” is the year’s second action assault on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the just-under $100 million take for “Olympus Has Fallen” (Film District) in the spring took its toll. It will take strong word of mouth (still possible) to salvage this film.

Warner Bros.’ “Man of Steel” continues its rapid decline, coming in #5 in only its third weekend, dropping more than 50% again at $6 million. The front-ended grosses combined with the international take so far have this Christopher Nolan-overseen reboot of the Superman franchise approaching $500 million worldwide, but the domestic part of that won’t get much above $300 million, well below expectations.

Number six-ranked “This Is the End” (Sony) and #7 “Now You See Me” (Lionsgate) both fell off under 40% as they continue their successful runs — the latter now crossing the $100 million mark. Previous #1 openers “Fast & Furious 6” (Universal), “Star Trek Into Darkness” (Paramount) and “Iron Man 3” (Buena Vista) round out the top 10, all of these heading for sub-$3 million weekends.

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