Warner Bros. battleground dramedy "War Dogs" moved ahead of the pack of new releases, making $5.5 million during Friday night showings.
Among the other two new wide releases, Focus Features' animated movie "Kubo and the Two Strings" made $4.1 million on Friday, and Paramount and MGM's big-budget "Ben-Hur" made the same -- $4.1 million.
Earlier this week, all three new movies were expected to earn very similar three-day grosses of around $12 million. And now it looks like "War Dogs" will exceed initial expectations, moving closer to $15 million. "Ben-Hur" is falling behind, unlikely to even clear previous predictions of $12 million.
What sets the biblical epic apart from the pack is that it was made for a whole lot more money than this weekend's other two new wide releases.
Produced for $100 million, estimates in the low teens put the decades-later reboot in line to become one of the biggest box office bombs of the summer. Paramount had previously set its opening closer to $20 million -- perhaps wishful thinking.
Made for about $55 million, the film is getting great reviews, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96 percent, plus an A CinemaScore -- measuring fan anticipation among those surveyed. Set in Japan, "Kubo and the Two Strings" is poised to make strong grosses abroad. Plus, animated features have a long history of holding more consistent interest weekend-over-weekend than live-acton movies.
But all of this week's newbies are likely to lose out to holdovers "Suicide Squad," expected to take the weekend with $20 million, and "Sausage Party," tracking to surpass $15 million.
"Kubo," opening in 3,260 theaters, is about a boy's quest to unlock the secret of his legacy. Set in Japan, the animated feature's voice cast also includes Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa and Rooney Mara. It was written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, from a story by Shannon Tindle and Haimes. The film was directed by Travis Knight.