"Underworld: Awakening" and "Red Tails" opened to better-than-expected numbers at the domestic box office this weekend, taking $25.4 million and $19.1, respectively.
"Underworld's" number was strong enough that Sony's distribution chief, Rory Bruer, told TheWrap Sunday morning that he "would be surprised if there wasn't" a fifth "Underworld" movie."
Also of note: Summit's "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" crossed the $700 million mark at the worldwide box office this weekend. It has taken $701.3 million since its Nov. 18, 2011 release and is on track to become the highest-grossing film of the "Twilight" franchise.
The weekend's strong figures came despite snow storms in the east and midwest, and marked yet another good weekend for the box office, which is up about 32 percent compared to the same weekend in 2011.
Among specialty releases, meanwhile, Fox Searchlight's "The Descendants" — possibly gaining a bump from its Golden Globe for best drama — took $2.4 million in 560 locations. That number pushed it past the $50 million mark. The Weinstein Company's "The Iron Lady," which won Meryl Streep a best actress for Golden Globe, remained No. 10 for the second week in a row.
Between Screen Gems' "Underworld: Awakening," the fourth installment in the studio's vampire-and-werewolf franchise, and Universal's "Contraband," Kate Beckinsale starred in the No. 1 and No. 3 movies in North America.
"Contraband," which was No. 1 last week, continued drawing audiences, and grossed $12.2 million in its second weekend.
Sony, which owns Screen Gems, attributed the success of "Underworld: Awakening" to several factors, including the return of Beckinsale to the role of Selene, the vampire warrior she originated.
The studio also noted that "Underworld Awakening" is the first of the "Underworld" franchise shown in 3D and IMAX. Sony noted that 3D made up 59 percent of opening weekend receipts, and IMAX made up another 15 percent.
According to IMAX, the movie took $3.8 million on 254 digital IMAX locations.
"This has been a fun ride for us," Bruer told TheWrap.
He said the movie, which received a score of "A-" from the audience survey firm Cinemascore, skewed slightly male: 55 percent of the audience was male and 60 percent was 25 and older.
The studio had expected "Underworld Awakening," which cost about $70 million to make, would gross between $20 million and $22 million over the weekend.
"But we hit the high end and there were weather factors," Bruer said. "That really bodes well for how the film will continue to perform."
Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein directed.
Overseas, "Underworld: Awakening" grossed $13.4 million, making it No. 1 in a dozen of the 20 international markets where it debuted.
Fox, too, was upbeat.
Studio executives had projected that the PG-13 "Red Tails," about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, would gross $10 million to $12 million, although less conservative outside box-office watchers estimated it would take as much as $18 million.
The $19.1 million take was a surprise.
"It played across all demographics and all across the country," Fox's distribution chief, Chris Aronson, told TheWrap Sunday morning.
He noted that the audience was 51 percent male and 49 percent female — a close split, considering "Red Tails" is a war movie.
"Red Tails," which executive producer George Lucas financed, cost $58 million to make.
"George has believed in this movie for 20-odd years and all I can say is, he was right," Aronson said.
The Tuskegee Airmen were African American pilots in the segregated U.S. Army Air Corps.
"It's a story that not too many people know about," Aronson said. "And now a lot of people will know about."
He said the movie, directed by Anthony Hemingway and starring Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Bryan Cranston, slightly overindexed in African American markets, and that the only North American locations where the movie did not perform especially well were in Canada.
The movie received an "A" Cinemascore.
The other two new movies of the weekend, Warner's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and Relativity's "Haywire," met or slightly exceeded projections.
"Extremely Loud," in its first week of wide release after spending four weeks in limited release, took $10.5 million.
Steven Daldry directed the PG-13 movie is about a 9-year-old boy whose father is killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and who searches for the lock that matches a key the man left behind.
The movie, which stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, received an "A-" Cinemascore rating.
Outside box-office watchers predicted that "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" would gross about $12 million over the weekend.
Finally, Relativity's "Haywire," directed by Steven Soderbergh, grossed $9 million.
The studio had projected that it would take $8 million, and outside box-office watchers figured it would take slightly more than that.
But while critics liked the movie — it has a strong 82 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating — the movie received a stunningly bad "D+" from Cinemascore.
The movie, about a black ops superspy who goes after some high-level bad guys who have set her up, stars mixed martial artist Gina Carano, along with Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum.
It had a budget of $23 million, but Relativity says that after foreign sales, tax rebates and other deals, the studio's investment was about $1.5 million.