The Warner Bros./New Line R-rated comedy "Horrible Bosses" opened solidly this weekend to $28.1 million, narrowly beating pre-release forecasts of around $25 million, according to studio estimates.
That haul was good enough to earn the movie the No. 2 spot at the box office to "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which brought in an estimated $47 million its second weekend, a drop of around 50 percent.
The weekend's other wide opening, the MGM/Sony Kevin James family comedy "The Zookeeper" also met its pre-release projections, grossing an estimated $21 million.
But the film was shot on a robust budget of around $80 million, compared to $38 million for "Horrible Bosses."
"The Zookeeper" financials at this point are much different than James' 2009 hit "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," which grossed more than $183 million worldwide on a budget of around $26 million.
The strong weekend also propelled "Transformers 3" to No. 1 for the year — domestically, at least. It surpassed "The Hangover 2," the Warner Bros. comedy that has a total domestic gross of $249.9 million and Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which has a $235 million North American total.
(Worldwide, "Pirates" beats everything else this year. The fourth installment in the franchise has taken in more than $1 billion.)
"Horrible Bosses" played well to just about everyone: Its audience had an almost even breakdown of 51 percent male, 49 percent female. The younger crowd — those younger than 25 — made up 36 percent of the audience. And that segment particularly liked it, giving the movie a CinemaScore of A-.
"These R-rated comedies in the summertime typically go down on Saturday nights between 5 and 15 percent," Jeff Goldstein, Warners' executive VP for distribution, told TheWrap. "We went up 5 percent."
And the movie's producer, Brett Ratner, told TheWrap Sunday he's thrilled with the movie's performance.
"For me it's a big deal because it's my first hit as a producer," Ratner said.
He continued that director Seth Gordon "did an excellent job at executing not an easy concept — how do you make a movie that's funny about murder?"
At Sony, president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer told TheWrap that despite the high cost of producing "Zookeeper," the movie is on a solid track.
"On a film like this, particularly in the summer, you're going to see such a great multiple that we're in very good shape," he said, noting that it had a strong opening in Germany and Mexico as well as domestically.
In Germany, the movie was No. 2 in the market, grossing $3 million on 608 screens. In Mexico, it was No. 3 in the market, grossing $2.5 million on 501 screens. Its total international gross was an estimated $7.5 million on 1,510 screens in 19 markets.
Bruer noted that "Zookeeper's" overall CinemaScore was a B+, and its score for audiences younger than 18 was A-.
Critics were not as kind. The movie has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 15 percent for critics but 56 percent for audiences.
The audience breakdown skewed slightly to parents and children — 52 percent. The other 48 percent was made up of general moviegoers. Overall, 47 percent of "Zookeeper's" opening audience was male and 53 percent was female. And 41 percent of the audience was younger than 25.
The top movie of the weekend, "Transformers 3," continued to show strong numbers at IMAX theaters. It grossed $4.7 million at domestic IMAX theaters this weekend, for a total of $21.5 million at IMAX alone. Internationally, it took in $3.5 million at IMAX locations this weekend — a total of $37 million so far.
In limited release, Summit's "A Better Life" took in an estimated $314,000 at 153 locations and has grossed a total of $543,000 in its three weeks. Summit plans to expand to about 100 more theaters next week. Even with the strong numbers, the overall box office was down 19 percent compared to the same weekend last year, according to studio estimates.
Next weekend will be a different story, as the final installation of the "Harry Potter" series hits theaters.
Here's how the top 10 shaped up this weekend:
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" ($47 million)
"Horrible Bosses" ($28.1 million)
"Zookeeper" ($21 million)
"Cars 2" ($15.2 million)
"Bad Teacher" ($9 million)
"Larry Crowne" ($6.3 million)
"Super 8" ($4.8 million)
"Monte Carlo" ($3.8 million)
"Green Lantern" ($3.1 million)
"Mr. Popper's Penguins" ($2.85 million)