‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Clobbers ‘Guardians’ With $65 Million Box-Office Opening (Video)

Marvel’s space romp holds well with $41.5 million, but Michael Bay’s half-shell heroes explode and Paramount announces a sequel

The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are back on top after two decades, and the heroes on the half-shell returned in style, racking up an estimated $65 million in their first three days to conquer the North American box office.

That knocked Marvel’s superhero space romp “Guardians of the Galaxy” from the top spot after just a week. Peter Quill, Groot and Rocket Raccoon held well in their second week and brought in $41.5 million for Disney, but the weekend belonged to everyone’s favorite wise-cracking mutant reptiles, Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo.

With producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman giving the gang a muscular special-effects update, “Ninja Turtles” blew past the expectations of analysts, who had the turtle tale opening at around $45 million.

Watch video: Explosions! Megan Fox! Explosions! Is This ‘Transformers’ or ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?’

It was the second straight week that the No. 1 film exceeded projections, and for the second consecutive week the struggling summer box office got a much-needed lift. The overall weekend was up roughly 17 percent over the comparable frame last year, though the season is still down at least 15 percent from last’s year’s record-breaker.

It also was the second major score of the summer for Bay and Paramount, coming in the wake of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the season’s only $100 million opener and the lone 2014 film to hit the $1 billion mark at the global box office. Bay, the studio and Nickelodeon, where an animated version of “Ninja Turtles” is a long-running hit kids show, teamed to produce the $125 million franchise reboot. They celebrated Sunday by announcing that there would be a “Ninja Turtles 2,” set for June 3, 2016.

The out-sized debut made a blowout of what was expected to a be a close weekend race with “Guardians” and provided an exclamation point on the return of the turtles. The three-day opening haul is bigger than the combined $57 million total of the three “Ninja Turtle” movies that opened at No. 1 in 1990, 1991 and 1993.

Also read: Megan Fox Tells ‘Ninja Turtles’ Haters to ‘F-ck Off’

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ found-footage disaster saga “Into the Storm” did the best of three other wide-opening films. The twister tale took in $18 million for third place, beating out DreamWorks’ Helen Mirren foodie drama “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” which finished fourth with $11.2 million.

“Step Up All In,” the fifth installment in the low-budget dance franchise, sashayed to $6.5 million for Summit Entertainment. That put it in sixth, behind the Scarlett Johansson sci-fi tale “Lucy,” which was fifth with $11.2 million and is bearing down on $100 million domestically in its third week for Universal.

The critics weren’t keen on the “Ninja Turtles” — it has a 40 percent positive rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes — but that didn’t matter to audiences. Opening weekend crowds at the 3,845 theaters where the PG-13-rated action comedy was playing, gave it a decent “B” CinemaScore.

Also read: Critics Shell ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ With Bad Reviews: 10 Takedowns to Consider

The audience broke down 61 percent male and 45 percent under 25. The latter figures mean Paramount marketers scored a bulls-eye, attracting the kiddie crowd and a sizable swath of older fans for whom the mutants were a nostalgia trip.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the ‘Turtles’ brand,” Paramount’s head of domestic distribution and marketing Megan Collison told TheWrap. “They appeal to kids and the 25 to 30-year-olds who grew up watching them.”

The key to the out-sized opening was going beyond those bases, she said, particularly with Hispanics, who comprised 36 percent of the audience.

Also read: How Hispanics Became Hollywood’s Most Important Audience

“The film has a nice mix of action and comedy that appealed to moviegoers who weren’t necessarily fans, like parents, and that really helped,” she said. “Ninja Turtles” should play well in the coming weeks; there’s not another family movie hitting the market until next month.

“Transformers” alum Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner and Whoopi Goldberg star in “Ninja Turtles,” with Johnny Knoxville voicing Leonardo.

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” which was in a market-high 4,080 theaters, fell off roughly 56 percent from its August-record $93 million opening last week. That’s in line with the second-week drop-offs of other Marvel superhero movies this summer, but the well-reviewed “Guardians” didn’t get the word-of-mouth boost it might have, probably due to the “Ninja Turtles” over-performance. Still, “Guardians” is already at an impressive $176 million domestically and more than $313 million globally.

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“Into the Storm,” directed by Steven Quale, landed just about where the studio and analysts had projected it would. Women (58 percent) and moviegoers over the age of 25 (71 percent) made up most of the audience at the 3,434 theaters, and they gave the twister thriller a “B” CinemaScore.

The opening for “Hundred-Foot Journey” is a little above projections and the “A” CinemaScore bodes well for the $22 million drama about dueling restaurants in France directed by Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”). Om Puri and Manish Dayal co-star with Mirren, but the biggest names associated with the Participant Media-DreamWorks project are Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, who produced with Juliet Blake.

“Hundred-Foot Journey” drew an older and largely female crowd that DreamWorks and distributor Disney hope will translate into a long run. The audience was 59 percent women and a whopping 87 percent over the age of 25; 42 percent were over 50.

Watch video: Channing Tatum vs. Ryan Guzman: An Ultimate ‘Step Up’ Dance-Off

The opening for “Step Up All In,” which returned Ryan Guzman as star, was considerably under that of the last entry in the franchise, “Step Up Revolution.” That one debuted to $11.7 million in 2012, but was in about 600 more theaters than the 2,072 of “All In.”

While the domestic totals for the franchise are going down, the foreign box office remains strong. “Step Up All In” added $6.4 million from abroad this weekend, and has taken in $37.7 million globally.

Audiences, 59 percent female, gave it a “B+” CinemaScore.

Paramount’s “Hercules” was seventh with a $5.7 million third week that brings its domestic total to $63 million. Universal’s James Brown biopic “Get On Up,” Fox’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and Disney’s “Planes: Fire and Rescue” rounded out the top ten.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is bearing down on $200 million at the domestic box office, and has passed $500 million worldwide.

CBS Films’ Daniel Radcliffe-Zoe Kazan romantic comedy “What If” brought in an estimated $130,000 from 20 theaters, a $6,500 per-screen average. It received an “A-” CinemaScore, in line with its strong reviews.