Warner Bros. superhero movie 'Green Lantern' opened to $52.7 million this weekend, according to studio estimates, missing pre-release forecasts that had the 3D film grossing closer to $60 million out of the gate.
Fox's Jim Carrey comedy "Mr. Popper's Penguins" also opened widely this weekend. It exceeded low pre-release expectations, grossing an estimated $18.2 million at 3,339 locations.
The No. 2 film at the domestic box office was J.J. Abrams' homage to Steven Spielberg, "Super 8," which declined just over 40 percent in its second weekend for a solid $21.3 million. The $50 million sci-fi film has grossed $72.8 million after two weekends in theaters.
Quietly, meanwhile, Disney's fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie continued what has become one of the more epic global box office runs in motion picture history. The Johnny Depp sequel added $6.2 million domestically, and $25.9 million internationally, to a worldwide total that now stands at $952.2 million after five weekends.
DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 2" led the international market this weekend, grossing $52.5 million at 10,267 foreign locations.
In the indie market, the quiet blockbuster is Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," which took in another $5 million to take the film to nearly $22 million in five weeks. If the movie continues to perform it will be on track to be the highest-earning Woody movie in history except for "Hannah and her Sister" in 1986.
Overall, the domestic box office was off about 25 percent from the same weekend last year. Here's the how the top 10 finished. Full report continues below chart:
But the big story at the box office this weekend was 'Green Lantern," yet another ambitious attempt by a major studio to establish superhero-based film franchise.
Starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Martin Campbell (2006's "Casino Royale"), the lifting was heavy for Warner, which spent more than $200 million to produce the PG-13-rated film and another $100 million to promote it.
"I would have been happier at $55 million," conceded Dan Fellman, distribution president for Warner Bros. With kids beginning to get out of school for summer break, he added, the film does have an opportunity to make up for lost ground in the coming weekdays.
"If we hit $5 million on Monday, all will be forgiven," he said.
“Green Lantern,” which opened 3,816 theaters across the U.S. and Canada, most of them showing the movie in 3D, received a B grade from filmgoer survey firm Cinemascore.
“Lantern” also has to look forward to the international market, which has been more than kind this early summer to films that haven’t hit their marks Stateside. “Pirates,” for example, missed its pre-release domestic forecast of $100 million when it opened up last month. It is now the 11th best global performer in history and is still climbing that chart.
“Green Lantern” opened in a limited number of territories this weekend, with foreign totals expected to be announced later in the day on Sunday.
At least in terms of three-day domestic totals, however, “Lantern” doesn’t stack up particularly well amid other studios' efforts this season to launch or reboot superhero franchises.
Marvel and Paramount jointly launched “Thor,” for example, to $65.7 million in early May, and were criticized by outlets including this one — perhaps unfairly — when the 3D film didn’t clear the $70 million mark.
Two weeks ago, Fox launched the re-boot “X-Men: First Class” to $55.1 million without the benefit of 3D surcharges.
Again, both movies have done well internationally: “Thor” had made $259.1 million abroad going into the weekend for a global total of $435.2 million; “X-Men: First Class” had made $134 million overseas as of Friday for $253.9 worldwide.
Given these factors, opening a few million dollars short Stateside may no longer be an issue for movies like “Green Lantern.”
As for “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” the adaptation of the eponymous 1938 children’s book received an A-minus grade from Cinemascore.
“People love our movie — the playability is fantastic, and we believe we’ll have a great multiple,” noted Chris Aronson, executive VP of distribution for Fox.
With the $55 million family film appealing more to girls than boys, Aronson added that “Penguins” should be able to pull off a strong weekend No. 2, despite the introduction of Disney family juggernaut “Cars 2” on Friday.
Meanwhile, among limited releases, Fox Searchlight’s “The Art of Getting By,” which stars Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts, grossed just $700,000 while ambitiously opening up in 610 locations. That resulted in a soft $1,148 per-theater average.
More successful was Andrew Rossi’s “Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times.” Distributed by Magnolia into two Big Apple locations — the Angelika and the new Elinor Bunim Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center — “Page One” grossed $33,000 for a $16,500-per-screen average.
Another Sundance film, “Buck,” opened on four screens, grossing $64,000, and averaging a similarly strong $16,100 per venue.