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Boy Wizard’s Steep Drop Gives Way to Disney’s Guinea Pigs

Sony’s Katherine Heigl-Gerard Butler romcom staves off lukewarm reviews to open strong.

CGI guinea pigs were “G” money for Disney at the weekend box office.

The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “G-Force” opened with $32.2 million, according to studio estimates, besting incumbent champion “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which slid 61% from its franchise-best premiere a week earlier.
Sony romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth,” meanwhile, overcame almost unanimously poor reviews from critics, opening to $27 million and finishing third. Despite the critical drubbing, the movie, starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, directed by Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde”), and made for $38 million, according to studio officials, benefited from solid word of mouth, receiving an “A-“ CinemaScore rating.
Warner Bros. horror film “Orphan” also opened strongly, taking in $12.8 million at 2,750 locations.
Going into the weekend, it was widely expected that the sixth of Warner’s “Harry Potter” films would drop no more than 50%-55% and rule the box office for a second straight week. Despite the bigger-than-anticipated decline, however, the film will finish its second weekend with a $221.8 million North American cume, a two-week domestic pace that exceeds all other previous “Potter” efforts.
Playing in 3,697 theaters, the live-action-and-CGI-combining “G-Force” capitalized on a large pool of PG-targeted filmgoers who’d already seen “Potter,” with family audiences comprising 75% of the gross. And for those who hadn’t done "Harry," the Disney film enjoyed 1,604 3D runs, putting it at a competitive advantage over “Potter,” which doesn’t start its North American 3D engagements until July 29.
As for the rest of the domestic box office, Fox’s first 3D effort, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” took in another $8.2 million to bring its cume to $171.3 million. Grossing $457.9 million internationally going into the weekend, the third “Ice Age” installment will soon become the franchise’s most successful, bettering 2006’s “Ice Age: The Meltdown.”
Finishing in sixth place, Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” garnered another $8 million, upping its cume to $379 million to usurp 2003’s third “Lord of the Rings” movie as the 10th most successful North American release of all time.
Falling all the way to 10th place after just three weeks of release, Universal’s “Bruno” is almost done domestically, taking in just $919,000 for a $56.5 million cume. However, the film – domestic and limited foreign rights of which were acquired by Universal for $42.5 million from Media Rights Capital – remains relevant overseas.
In fact, “Bruno” grossed another $6.5 million in 33 territories over the weekend, bringing its international total to $56 million and its global take to $112.5 million. The bulk of the international bounty has come from the U.K., Australia, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and New Zealand, all of which fall Universal distribution rights.
As for indies, Fox Searchlight romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer” took in $1.6 million at 85 theaters over the weekend, upping its cume to $3 million after two weeks, a pace that nearly matches the arc of Searchlight’s mega-hit “Slumdog Millionaire” last year.
Meanwhile, Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker” finished the weekend with another $390,000 at 238 locations, bringing its cume to $4 million.


Saturday update:

Disney’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced 3D guinea pig movie “G-Force” debuted as a surprise leader at the North American box office Friday, jumping out to an $11.5 million start that bested previously dominant incumbent “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” according to studio estimates.  


In fact, the fast-fading “Potter” finished third Friday with $9.3 million, a 65% drop, and was also behind Sony’s new R-rated romantic comedy entrant “The Ugly Truth,” which got out to a $10.8 million start in 2,882 locations.  


Going into the weekend, tracking from numerous sources predicted “Potter” would drop only in the 50%-55% range, and “G-Force” and “Ugly Truth” would battle it out for second place and both finish the weekend in the $20 million-$25 million area. But that’s clearly not what happened.  


Playing in 3,697 locations, 1,603 of which were 3D equipped, “G-Force” is on track to finish the three-day weekend period with a $34.6 million cume.  


Meanwhile, with Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler charged with creating the romantic chemistry, “The Ugly Truth” defied almost universally poor reviews and is on track for what Sony believes will be a $27 million-$29 million weekend. According to studio officials, the film was made for $37 million.  


Warner Bros.’ “Potter,” which so far has taken in $201 million domestically, is on pace to finish the weekend with $29.8 million. The film is also on track to become the first “Potter” film to surpass $1 billion globally.  


Also premiering Friday, Warner horror film “Orphan” came in fourth, taking in $4.9 million playing in 2,750 locations, setting it up for a $12.8 million weekend. Tracking estimates coming into the premiere had the film finishing at around $14 million to $15 million.  


Here’s how the top 10 shaped up Friday:  

G-Force (11.5 m)

The Ugly Truth (10.7 m)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (9.3 m)

Orphan (4.9 m)

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2.6 m)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2.4 m)

The Proposal (2.1 m)

The Hangover (2.0 m)

Public Enemies (1.2 m)

Bruno (0.9 m) 


Thursday box office preview:


It’s still Harry Potter’s world.


Generating the best start both domestically and internationally for Warner Bros’ six-film franchise, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is expected to once again finish on top of the North American box office this weekend.


In fact, even accounting for a worst-case scenario in what would be a huge 60% drop from last weekend’s $77.8 million domestic performance — the tail end of a franchise best $158 million five day opening — “Potter” would still gross more than $30 million.


Based on tracking estimates, that leaves the weekend’s two major entries, Disney’s PG-rated, animatronic guinea pig-themed “G-Force” and Sony romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth,” closely battling for second and third position, with domestic grosses in the $20 million-to-$25 million range.


Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “G-Force” will open in 3,697 theaters, 1,603 of which will show the film in 3D.


Featuring voice talent from Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, Tracy Morgan and Steve Buscemi, “G-Force” isn’t helped by the fact that this latest “Potter” shares the same PG rating (the last two installments came in PG-13).


However, Disney distribution president Chuck Viane believes enough of the family audience has already seen “Potter” to give “G-Force” the opening it needs.


“By the day we open, ‘Harry Potter” will have taken in very close to $250 million worth of business out of the marketplace,” he said. “That leaves us everybody who has already seen this movie. There’s also (Fox’s third) “Ice Age,” which has been tremendous ($160.3 million domestically through Wednesday), but it has already done the vast majority of its business, too.”


Likewise, Sony is projecting a low- to mid-20s figure for the R-rated “The Ugly Truth,” which stars Katherine Heigl as a morning show producer looking for love, and “300’s” Gerard Butler as the jaded correspondent who falls for her.


The film goes into the weekend with negative reviews — Metacritic compiled its critical reception at an unfavorable 35 rating. However, Sony officials believe the movie, which was made on a $37 million budget, will have no problems achieving profitability.


Meanwhile, another new entry, Warner’s R-rated horror film “The Orphan,” is predicted to finish fourth based on tracking estimates, coming in the $14 million-to-$15 million range. "The Orphan" stars Peter Sarsgaard and CCH Pounder.


Among indies, Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker” will expand its run to 238 locations in North America. Last weekend, the film an additional $764,000 playing in 93 theaters, bringing its total to $2.2 million.


Also set to expand its run is Fox Searchlight’s “500 Days of Summer,” which took in $834,501 last week playing in 85 theaters, a benchmark that exceeded Searchlight hits “Juno” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”


Indie openings, meanwhile, include Magnolia’s bromance-themed “Humpday” and “In the Loop,” an IFC Films-distributed political comedy starring James Gandolfini and Steve Coogan.