Updated Saturday, 7:10 a.m. PT
Fanboys delivered Relativity's "Immortals" a strong $15 million box office Friday, and the movie is on track to pull in nearly $36 million for the weekend, studio estimates show.
Relativity had predicted an opening of only around $25 million, and most predictions outside the studio were also well below $30 million.
The swords-and-sandals epic opened to $1.4 million at midnight showings Thursday.
Sony's "Jack and Jill" is on track to meet the studio's low expectations, grossing just short of $10 million on Friday. The Adam Sandler comedy won't have the $30 million weekend the star is used to. Estimates have it at $23.7 million for the weekend.
"Puss in Boots" is enjoying a good third weekend, with an estimated $8.8 million Friday. That should put the DreamWorks Animation movie in second place, at $25 million for the weekend. If its pace holds up, "Puss in Boots" will have declined only around 25 percent from its opening weekend two weeks ago.
Universal's "Tower Heist" is in fourth place in its second weekend of release. Brett Ratner's adventure comedy starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy took in just short of $5 million on Friday and is looking at a $13.8 million weekend.
"J. Edgar," meanwhile, is looking at a soft, fifth-place opening. The Warner Bros. biopic about former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover took in about $4.25 million on Friday, estimates show. It is on track to gross a touch more than $11 million for the weekend.
Two of the three movies opening wide this weekend are targeted at a key film-going demographic that has been staying away from the movies lately: Young men.
Relativity's R-rated, 3D epic "Immortals" and Sony's latest Adam Sandler comedy "Jack and Jill" could both use help this weekend from males under 25 as they enter wide domestic distribution with tepid pre-release tracking.
With domestic movie-ticket revenue down 3.5 percent over last year, much of the blame is being laid at the feet of moviegoers 24 and younger. They accounted for 60 percent of domestic box office attendance in 1975 but dwindled to just 32 percent of attendees by 2010, according to a recent survey (see chart below).
And the more dramatic drop is among young males, a studio distribution executive told TheWrap Thursday.
Young men, the executive said, "are toast. They're so away it's not even funny … You know what they're all doing right now? They're all playing 'Modern Warfare 3.' I'm sorry, that's what they're doing … It's just a fact of life."
Against this backdrop, Relativity is hoping its $75 million after tax rebates swords-and-sandals action film can crack a middling $25 million on its opening weekend.
Sony, meanwhile, hasn't opened an Adam Sandler comedy to less than $30 million, but expects to gross no more than $25 million this weekend for "Jack and Jill."
"Particularly with younger moviegoers, if you don't get them on opening weekend … you're not going to get them," Vincent Bruzzese, president of the motion picture division for the research firm Ipsos OTX, told TheWrap. "That shows the impact of the younger male. … It's very difficult to get somebody who's not excited on opening night to go to a second or third week."
"Immortals" is Relativity's first stab at a big action movie.
Directed by Tarsem Singh ("The Cell"), "Immortals" has a soft Rotten Tomatoes score of 46 and is set to open in 3,112 locations.
"Immortals" stars Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans and John Hurt, and tells the story of Theseus, a young cobbler whom the god Zeus chooses to lead mankind in a battle against the evil King Hyperion.
Not surprisingly, it is tracking strongest among men, but the greater traction is with males older than 25 — a typical skew for action-driven movies these days.
According to research firm NRG, 81 percent of older males know "Immortals" is coming to theaters, while 55 percent report "definite interest" in seeing it and 22 percent call it their "first choice" on the marquee.
Box-office watchers outside Relativity predict the film will gross between $23 million – $28 million.
The movie is also opening this weekend in about 30 international territories, including China, Germany, Italy, UK, Japan, South Korea, Greece, India and Russia.
"Jack and Jill," meanwhile, directed by Dennis Dugan and written by Steve Koren, had a conspicuously bad Rotten Tomatoes score of 0 with 21 reviews in the bank as of late-day Thursday.
The movie stars Sandler as Jack Sadelstein, a guy who dreads Thanksgiving weekend because it means a visit from his twin sister, Jill. Sandler plays both characters in the comedy, which also stars Al Pacino and Katie Holmes. It opens in 3,483 locations.
Sandler, of course, established his big-screen presence more than a decade ago on the backs of young male moviegoers with films like "Billy Madison," "Happy Gilmore" and "The Waterboy." But young males are showing some of the weakest interest to see his latest movie.
According to NRG, 81 percent of males under 25 even know "Jack and Jill" is in theaters (compared to 87 percent of females under 25).
"Jack and Jill" cost about $79 million to make, and Sony expects it will gross in the low-to-mid $20 millions — about on track with outside estimates.
Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar," meanwhile, has already shown proven traction among moviegoers, opening to $53,000 at seven locations Wednesday night.
The film — which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench and Armie Hammer — opens wide Friday at 1,910 locations.
Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black ("Milk") wrote the $35 million film, which garnered only 41 percent Rotten Tomatoes love through late-day Thursday.
It was filmed for about $35 million, and box-office watchers outside of Warner figure it will take in $12 million this weekend.