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‘Ender’s Game’ Blasts Through Box-Office Boycott for $10M Friday, Eyes $27M Weekend

Impact of the protest of author Orson Scott Card’s comments appears muted. ”Last Vegas“ gets out fast but ”Free Birds“ starts slowly

“Ender’s Game,” the futuristic adventure tale based on Orson Scott Card’s 1985 classic sci-fi novel, blasted off at the box office with nearly $10 million Friday.

That projects to a roughly $27 million weekend for the Lionsgate thriller, which would be enough to top last week’s No. 1 movie, “Jackass Present: Bad Grandpa.” Paramount’s R-rated Johnny Knoxville comedy dropped just 44 percent from last Friday and brought in $6 million, good for second place and a likely $17 million three-day total.

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It was running ahead of the weekend’s other two wide openers, the geriatric bachelor party comedy “Last Vegas” and the 3D  animated “Free Birds, which are tracking for three-day totals of $15 million and $14 million respectively.

An online “Skip Ender’s Game” campaign,” organized by a group called Geeks Out that is protesting Card’s anti-gay marriage comments, has attracted more than 11,000 signatures. There’s no way of knowing how many people stayed away, but Friday’s numbers are a little stronger than analysts had projected, so any impact appears muted. The studio and film’s creative team have all distanced themselves from Card’s comments.

First-night audiences gave a “B+” CinemaScore to “Ender’s Game,” which the distributor and backers Summit Entertainment, Odd Lot Entertainment and Digital Domain hope can launch a young adult franchise. Lionsgate is the studio behind the hugely lucrative “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” movie series.

Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld star alongside Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci produce, and it is directed by Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”).

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Friday’s $5.1 million debut was a bit stronger than expected for CBS Films’ PG-13 rated “Last Vegas,” which stars Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. Mature audiences are the target demographic for the comedy, and opening-night crowds gave it a “A-” CinemaScore.

“Free Birds,” the first full-length animated feature for distributor Relativity and Reel FX, brought in a soft $4 million from a market-high 3,736 theaters Friday. It’s a family film and received an “A-” CinemaScore too, so it should get a bounce on Saturday and Sunday. But it looks like the modestly budgeted turkey tale. featuring the voices of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, will finish under expectations, which weren’t high going in.

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The first week in November traditionally has been a good one for animated films to launch. “Wreck-It Ralph” debuted to $49 million on the comparable weekend this year.

Holdover Oscar hopefuls “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips” continued to hold strongly. Warner Bros.’ space epic took in about $4 million Friday and is looking at $13 million for the three days and a domestic total of nearly $220 million in its fifth week. Sony’s Tom Hanks piracy saga brought in roughly $2.4 million Friday and is on pace for about $8 million for the weekend and a domestic total north of $80 million in its fourth week.

Fox Searchlight expanded awards front-runner “12 Years a Slave,” which cracked the top ten last week, into 44 additional markets and has upped the theater count to 410. It took in an estimated $1.2 million Friday and could hit $4 million for the weekend.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” “The Counselor” and “Carrie” rounded out the top ten and will all wind up in the $3 million range for the weekend.