(Updated: Monday, 1:30 p.m.)
Sony's "Takers" has nudged past Lionsgate's "The Last Exorcism" to claim first place at the box office last weekend. The caper film grossed $20.5 million, according to studio estimates. "Last Exorcism," which Lionsgate picked up for $1 million, made $20.4 million over the three-day period.
Internationally, The Weinstein Company's "Piranha 3D" made $12 million in 8 markets. A decision to make a sequel to the rampaging fish film raised a few eyebrows as its domestic debut was underwhelming. The studio says that it now anticipates the film will bring in nearly $100 million worldwide.
(Updated: Monday, 9:45 a.m.)
Though both “Takers” and “Last Exorcism” beat industry expectations with strong debuts, the two movies were still jockeying for the prize of the weekend’s top grossing release on Monday morning.
It now appears that Sony’s urban heist flick may have overtaken Lionsgate’s low-budget horror film. “Takers” earned $20.6 million while “Last Exorcism” brought in $20.4 million, according to studio estimates. Given the narrow lead, those positions could easily change throughout the day.
It's a box office fight that looks like it will go down to the wire.
If the numbers hold, Lionsgate's "Last Exorcism" squeaked by Sony's "Takers" to claim the weekend's crown with $21.3 million, according to studio estimates.
The urban bank robbery drama' was just behind Lionsgate's horror film with $21 million and would have likely won the weekend, but it debuted in fewer locations than "Last Exorcism." The caper film screened in 2,206 theaters compared to the 2,874 North American locations for "Exorcism."
The two movies' positions on the weekend top ten list could change, as studios refine their estimates throughout the day.
"Last Exorcism" — a low-budget horror film with a no name cast — shattered expectations. Produced by horror maestro Eli Roth and Strike, the Lionsgate movie cost less than $2 million to make and had been expected to gross in the mid-teens.
"This summer shows that we are a mini-major and we can compete with the studios," David Spitz, Lionsgate's executive vice president of domestic distribution, told TheWrap.
Lionsgate wasn't the only studio patting itself on the back on Sunday. Sony also felt pretty bullish about "Takers" three-day haul. Produced in collaboration with Screen Gems, the crime drama cost $30 million to make and had been expected to finish just under $20 million for the weekend.
"This was a fresh take on the old heist story. We had an incredible ensemble cast that drew in young audiences," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer told TheWrap.
Overall box office was down 10 percent from the same period a year ago when "The Final Destination" grossed $27.4 million in its first week of release.
August has proved a welcome change of pace for Lionsgate. The studio has been consumed by a drawn out proxy fight for control of the company with billionaire Carl Ichan, who has hung the box office disappointments of "Kick-Ass" and "Killers" around management's neck.
Following the success of the retro action picture "The Expendables" and the stunning performance of "Last Exorcism," the renegade investor may have to retire his favorite cudgel. In the company's earnings call earlier in August, officials told investors they got "The Expendables," "Last Exorcism," and the soon to be released "Buried" for less than $22 million combined.
Indeed, "Expendables" continues to show box office legs. The Sylvester Stallone men on a mission picture dropped 46 percent in its third weekend and captured $9.5 million at the box office. That brings the domestic total for the $80 million action film to $82 million. Needless to say, a sequel is in the works.
Sony has also had a strong summer and "Takers" continued the studio's hot streak. Sony's other films "Eat Pray Love" and "The Other Guys" slipped a solid 44 and 36 percent to bring in $7 million and $6.6 million respectively. The Julia Roberts romantic drama has now grossed $60.7 million, while the Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg buddy comedy has earned $99.3 million. When "Other Guys" crosses the $100 million line sometime next week, it will be the fourth Sony film this summer to cross that mark domestically, after "Salt," "Grown Ups," and "Karate Kid."
A re-release of "Avater" featuring 9 minutes of extra footage including several new creatures added padding to the James Cameron epic's status as the highest grossing movie in history. Not enough moviegoers revisted the Na'vi to propel the film into the weekend's top ten, but the movie managed to add $4 million to its total in 812 IMAX and 3D theaters. Its domestic total now stands at $753.7 million.
"Fans wanted to spend more time on Pandora, and they wanted to see it on the big screen," Bert Livingston, Fox senior vice president and general sales manager, told TheWrap.
"Last Exorcism" may have earned the lion's share of its gross this weekend. While it enjoys a respectable 71 percent favorable score on Rotten Tomatoes, the horror film received a "D" CinemaScore rating. Word of mouth could be frightful.