Young men put down the videogame controllers and returned to the box office in large numbers this weekend, giving "Immortals" a strong $32 million opening domestically, according to studio data.
That's $7 million more than Relativity Media had predicted for its R-rated swords-and-sandals epic, which finished No. 1 at the weekend box office. The $75 million film also grossed $34 million opening up overseas for a worldwide premiere total of $68 million.
With war game "Modern Warfare 3" moving 6.5 million units on its first day on store shelves last week, young men had been a vanishing breed at the domestic box office. But they came out in droves for "Immortals," with 60 percent of the audience male and 75 percent under the age of 35.
I think people were concerned about young males, but I think they came out for 'Immortals,'" Kyle Davies, Relativity's president of worldwide distribution, told TheWrap Sunday.
Sony's Adam Sandler comedy, "Jack and Jill," meanwhile, grossed an estimated $26 million. While that's on the high end of the studio's expectations for the PG-rated movie, it does not compare well to the numbers most Adam Sandler films generate in opening weekend. Most of Sony's Sandler comedies have opened to well over $30 million.
Still, it was enough to put "Jack and Jill" at No. 2 for the weekend, just ahead of DreamWorks Animation's "Puss in Boots." That movie, in its third weekend of release, grossed an estimated $25.5 million. The animated film has declined less than 25 percent from its opening two weeks ago.
The third movie in wide release this weekend, the Warner Bros. biopic "J. Edgar," is still searching for its audience. The R-rated movie with a stellar pedigree — it stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer, was directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Academy Award-winner Dustin Lance Black — opened in fifth place, taking in only $11.6 million.
Universal's "Tower Heist," the comedy featuring former Oscar producer Brett Ratner as director and would-be Oscar host Eddie Murphy as star, was No. 4 at the box office in its second weekend of release. It took an estimated $13.2 million — a solid 45 percent drop from last weekend.
But this weekend was all about "Immortals."
"The past few weekends, the box office has been suppressed — a lot of people were getting concerned about when there would be a kick-start," Relativity's Davies said. "I think 'Immortals' did that."
The movie, which had a "B" Cinemascore, opened in 3,112 locations. It is Relativity's highest-opening movie as a distributor. The movie's 3D worked well — 66 percent of the gross came from 3D screens.
Relativity had a whole lot riding on "Immortals." The movie, directed by Tarsem Singh and starring Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans and John Hurt, is the studio's most ambitious project so far.
It had a budget estimated at $75 million after tax rebates for shooting in Canada. Relativity says it hedged its bets by pre-selling foreign rights well in advance.
Still, there was pressure on Relativity to make a movie that performed well.
It was well above both the studio's internal tracking and projections from outside box-office watchers.
Relativity notes that "Immortals" is the third-highest R-rated film debut this year behind "Hangover 2," which opened to $85 million, and "Paranormal Activity 3," which opened to $52 million.
The movie is about Theseus, a mortal played by Cavill, who is chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against the evil King Hyperion, played by Rourke. The fate of both mankind and the gods both are at stake.
"Immortals" overperformed on Friday, grossing $15 million. It dropped to an estimated $10.17 million on Saturday and a projected $6.83 million Sunday.
Davies attributed the strong Friday to Veterans Day.
"With Veterans Day falling on a Friday, half the schools were closed," he said.
Meanwhile, Sony's comedy "Jack and Jill" managed to beat DreamWorks Animation's "Puss in Boots" for second place.
The PG movie, directed by Dennis Dugan and starring Sandler and Al Pacino, grossed $26 million. It had a budget estimated at $79 million.
"When you have this type of film … it's going to have a great multiple," Rory Bruer, Sony's president of worldwide distribution, told TheWrap Sunday. "But quite frankly, Adam's movies always have great multiples. The play has always been to open on this earlier date with the big reward working into the holiday weekend — the big Thanksgiving weekend."
Sony said that 53 percent of the film's opening weekend ticket sales came from families, and that 52 percent came from moviegoers 25 and older; 57 percent of the audience was female.
The movie has a Thanksgiving theme. It's about Jack Sadelstein, a guy who dreads Thanksgiving because it means a visit from his twin sister, Jill.
"Jack and Jill" had a Cinemascore of "B" and opened at 3,438 locations.
The Eastwood-directed "J. Edgar," the Warner Bros. biopic of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, had a budget estimated at $35 million and barely met studio expectations.
Still, Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman told TheWrap that he was pleased with the weekend.
"We positioned the movie in a way to get the opening that we did," he said. "We're going into the Hollywood playtime right now, and we're the only real adult choice in the marketplace."
Fellman added that the movie is "certainly in position as we move forward into the holiday season with a lot of family movies, to capture the adult audience — and, of course, we're looking at some year-end accolades as well."
"J. Edgar," which had a Cinemascore of "B," opened in 1,910 locations.
In limited release, the Lars von Trier movie "Melancholia" grossed $270,000 at 19 locations, for a strong per-screen average of just over $14,200 a theater.
Meanwhile, Werner Herzog's documentary "Into the Abyss" took in a soft $50,784 at a dozen locations.
The weekend's top openers were:
"Jack and Jill" ($26m)
"Puss in Boots" ($25.5m)
"Tower Heist" ($13.18m)
"J. Edgar" ($11.57m)
"A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" ($5.9m)
"In Time" ($4.15m)
"Paranormal Activity 3" ($3.26m)
"Real Steel" ($2m)