‘Mr. Peabody’ Blows Past ‘Need for Speed’ in Box-Office Upset (Video)

Animated comedy tops action rivals with $21 million second week; “Single Moms Club” bombs, “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Veronica Mars” crack top 10

Animation trumped action at the weekend box office, as the family comedy “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” surged past “Need for Speed” and two other testosterone-fueled movies to pull off an upset with a $21.2 million second week.

Moviegoers chose DreamWorks Animation’s tale of a professorial pooch and his young charge over the 3D big screen adaptation of the popular video game, which opened with an underwhelming $17.8 million despite the presence of star Aaron Paul, from TV’s “Breaking Bad.”

That left the hot car tale in third behind last week’s No. 1 film, the R-rated sword-and-sandals saga “300: Rise of an Empire,” which took in $19.1 million. The Liam Neeson jetliner thriller “Non-Stop” was fourth with $10.6 million in its third week.

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Tyler Perry‘s Single Moms Club,” the weekend’s other wide opener, disappointed with $8.3 million, the lowest debut ever for a film directed by Perry.

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson‘s ensemble comedy “The Grand Budapest Hotel” stayed hot in its expansion and cracked the top ten with $3.6 million and a terrific $55,152 average on 66 screens. That put it just ahead of “Veronica Mars,” the TV show adaptation that was brought to the big screen via a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, which finished eighth with $2 million in its limited debut.

“Mr. Peabody,” which is based on a segment from the 50-year-old TV cartoon series “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” continued to draw an audience beyond the minivan crowd — 57 percent of its audience was over 25 — and upped its domestic total to $63 million for distributor Fox.

We’re still seeing strong approval numbers from the youngsters in our exit polls,” said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson, “but there’s definitely an adult nostalgia thing going on here.”

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Directed by Rob Minkoff (“The Lion King”) and featuring the voice of Ty Burrell of TV’s “Modern Family,” “Mr. Peabody saw a big surge Saturday in its market-high 3,951 theaters and wound up down just 32 percent from its opening weekend. That suggests staying power over the next few weeks and schools’ spring break, but it will face a challenge starting Friday, when Disney rolls out “Muppets Most Wanted.”

need-for-speedDreamWorks’ “Need for Speed” came in well under the $25 million that analysts and distributor Disney had projected. They’d expected a combination of gamers, fans of muscle car movies and a 3D boost to power “Need for Speed.” It hit those demographic targets, just not hard enough, and the presence of the other action movies may have hurt.

“Need for Speed” failed to match the $23 million opening of the weakest of the “Fast & Furious” movies, 2006’s “Tokyo Drift.” And it didn’t connect with the console crowd either, joining a list of recent video-game misfires that includes “Max Payne” and “Silent Hill: Revelation.”

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The audience was 70 percent male and 56 percent was between 18 and 34 years of age. The 3D screens, in 90 percent of the 3,115 theaters, delivered just 43 percent of the gross. It received a so-so “B+” CinemaScore.

If the overall number was bigger we’d be doing high fives because of the demos,” Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis told TheWrap Sunday. “One of the fundamentally tricky parts of tracking is that younger audiences can be finicky and easily distracted, but keeping their focus is our job, so the domestic opening is disappointing.”

The foreign openings provided a bright spot. “Need for Speed” took in $45.6 million from roughly 40 markets, led by a strong $21 million No. 1 debut in China, so its $63.4 million first-weekend worldwide total nearly matches its $66 million production budget.

Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.’ “300: Rise of an Empire” raised its domestic total to $78 million. It was off 58 percent, a little more than the 53 percent that the original “300” fell in its second week. With another $41 million from overseas this weekend, it’s up to $158 million internationally and $236 million worldwide.

Tyler Perry‘s Single Moms Club,” landed with a thud. The PG-13 comedy-drama drew a crowd that was predictably female (79 percent) and older (80 percent over 25), and they gave it an “A-” CinemaScore. It’s the final film Perry will release via Lionsgate, at least for now, as he turns his attention to his TV work with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network.

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Warner Bros.’ PG-13-rated “Veronica Mars,” starring Kristen Bell, got off to a solid start in its limited debut. The comedy co-written, produced, and directed by creator Rob Thomas was also made available for download Friday, which may have cut into its box office, and early streaming problems had some of the film’s contributors seething

Disney’s animated juggernaut “Frozen” spent its 17th week in the top ten, with a little over $2 million this weekend. It’s about to cross $400 million domestically and has taken in more than $1.02 billion worldwide.