Brett Ratner's caper comedy "Tower Heist" broke into theaters with disappointing results this weekend, losing out to an exceptionally strong second-week performance from the 3D computer animated romp, "Puss in Boots."
In an exclusive interview with TheWrap, director Brett Ratner said he was "ecstatic" with the box office — particularly in a difficult market.
"A $25 million opening is nothing to complain about, and I think it's excellent in a market that is obviously soft," he said, adding that audiences increased from Friday night to Saturday night.
But the weekend belonged to DreamWorks Animation's "Puss in Boots" starring Antonio Banderas, which took $33 million in its second weekend in release. That was a very strong hold on audiences considering it opened to $34 million. The movie dropped only 3 percent from its premiere.
"It's probably the best hold ever, honestly, for a movie in wide release," Anne Globe, DreamWorks Animation marketing chief, told TheWrap.
The weekend's other new wide release, New Line's stoner comedy sequel "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" bowed at third place, grossing a soft $13 million.
But overall, the theatrical business is not doing terribly well.
The "Puss in Boots" performance was the highlight to a weekend that was down 23 percent compared to the same weekend last year.
Globe said that DreamWorks always planned a two-weekend opening strategy for "Puss in Boots."
The PG-rated movie played at 3,963 locations — 11 more than last weekend.
Globe said the film has grossed more than $75 million "after just 10 days, and to have this kind of momentum now, going into the holiday play period with Veterans Day coming up next weekend and then heading into Thanksgiving … that was always our plan."
She said the movie, which had a budget of about $130 million, will continue to perform well.
At Universal, meanwhile, distribution chief Nikki Rocco said "Tower Heist's" $25 million gross was within the studio's range of expectations — if on the low end.
The PG-13 movie was co-financed with Relativity at a cost of around $85 million. Audiences gave it a middling Cinemascore of "B," Rocco said. It played at 3,367 locations.
"Tower Heist," about a group of luxury tower support staffers who try to steal back money from a Bernard Madoff-like Wall Street character (played by Alan Alda), drew a slightly older audience. People 30 and older made up 62 percent of the audience and females made up 56 percent.
The movie encountered a rough patch with theatrical exhibitors before it was released. Universal initially planned to make it available on premium video-on-demand in Atlanta and Portland, Ore. three weeks after it arrived in theaters. Exhibitors were appalled, and told the studio they wouldn't show the movie in their theaters if Universal went through with the plan.
Ultimately, Universal scrapped the idea.
"As a studio, we're very proud of this picture," Rocco said. "The exit polls are terrific. Audiences like it. The cast worked incredibly hard. The marketing was really pointed. It's a good adult comedy that will be around for a while. These pictures tend to leg out."
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. executive VP for domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein told TheWrap he was disappointed with "Harold & Kumar's" weekend. But he said the movie ultimately will prove profitable.
"We were looking for something in the $16 million range, so clearly we missed that mark," he said, noting the movie had a Cinemascore of "B." "But the real success in these ("Harold & Kumar" movies) has been home video. There's been an incredible amount of units bought."
He said that while he thought the film would perform better at the box office, he predicted strong DVD and Blu-ray sales.
"Given the relatively modest costs of $20 million to make the movie, the movie will come out in the black," he said.
Not surprisingly, the R-rated movie, which played at 2,875 locations, had especially strong appeal to young men. The audience was 62 percent male and 73 percent under 35.
Goldstein said 95 percent of the gross was from 3D screens.
"Harold & Kumar" is the third in the series starring John Cho and Kal Penn. The first, 2004's "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," opened to $5.4 million and grossed $29.3 million worldwide. The second, the 2008 "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," opened to $14.9 and grossed $43.5 million worldwide.
Opening to limited release this weekend, Anchor Bay's R-rated "The Son of No One," starring Channing Tatum and Al Pacino, grossed $19,000 at 10 locations.
The top 10 movies this weekend shaped up like this:
"Puss in Boots" ($33M)
"Tower Heist" ($25M)
"A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" ($13M)
"Paranormal Activity 3" ($8.52M)
"In Time" ($7.7M)
"Real Steel" ($3.4M)
"The Rum Diary" ($2.98M)
"The Ides of March" ($2M)
More to come…