LOS ANGELES: Sylvester Stallone and his beefy buddies have muscled their way to the top of the weekend box office.
Stallone’s action hero roundup The Expendables 2 debuted at No. 1 with $28.8 million (Dh105 million), according to studio estimates on Sunday. That’s down from the $34.8 million start for The Expendables two years ago.
The Lionsgate sequel elbowed out another action tale as Universal’s The Bourne Legacy fell to No. 2 in its second weekend with $17 million. That was a steep 55 per cent drop from its $38.1 million opening weekend, though the movie’s domestic total climbed to a solid $69.6 million.
Three other wide releases opened to modest business.
Focus Features’ animated comedy ParaNorman, about a boy leading the fight against zombies that rise from the grave, was No. 3 with $14 million.
Sony’s music remake Sparkle, featuring American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston, was No. 5 with $12 million. The update of the 1976 movie centres on three sisters who form a singing group in the late 1960s.
Disney’s family fantasy The Odd Life of Timothy Green was No. 7 with $10.9 million. The movie stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as a childless couple who become instant parents to a boy that magically appears in their lives.
The newcomers and holdovers combined to lift Hollywood’s overall business. Domestic revenues totaled $139 million, up 12 per cent from the same weekend last year, when The Help led with $20 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
Business had been down the previous three weekends this summer, which has fallen short of the record-setting business many studio executives were predicting at the start of the season.
Since the first weekend of May, revenues total $3.9 billion, down 5 per cent from last summer’s, when Hollywood finished with an all-time high of $4.4 billion for the season, according to Hollywood.com.
This summer delivered huge hits such as The Avengers with $617.6 million domestically and The Dark Knight Rises, which took in $11.1 million this weekend to cross the $400 million mark and edge past The Hunger Games to become the year’s second-biggest hit.
But other releases such as Dark Shadows, Battleship, The Watch and Total Recall were duds that failed to live up to the summer’s hype.
With only two weekends left in the season and no obvious hits premiering, it’s unlikely that Hollywood will break last summer’s record.
“We’re winding down the summer and we’re in the dog days of August. They’re called that for a reason, because we’re experiencing the typical summer slowdown, only it seems worse this year,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
Along with Stallone, The Expendables 2 cast includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
While the sequel drew smaller crowds than the first movie, distributor Lionsgate noted that business held up better for the new one in its second day. Revenues dipped only 3 percent from Friday to Saturday compared to 11 per cent for The Expendables, according to Lionsgate.
That’s a sign that more first-night fans may be talking up the sequel, which also earned better reviews than the original.
“We believe with solid word of mouth and even critical response to the film, that bodes well for the playability,” said David Spitz, Lionsgate’s head of distribution. “It’s the old, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Sparkle was the first movie since 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, for Houston, who died in February. The movie was produced on a small $14 million budget, so it will not be a financial burden to Sony despite its modest earnings.
A star’s death often boosts audience interest, as happened with Heath Ledger and the Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight or Michael Jackson and the hit music documentary Michael Jackson: This Is It.
That did not hold true for Sparkle, in which Houston had a supporting role as the stern but loving mother of the three singers.
“I don’t think that was ever in the cards where there was this sudden interest in seeing the movie,” Dergarabedian said. “There didn’t seem to be that kind of, ‘oh, it’s Whitney Houston’s last movie, we’ve got to go see it’ attitude.”
The box office figures
1. The Expendables 2, $28.8 million.
2. The Bourne Legacy, $17 million.
3. ParaNorman, $14 million.
4. The Campaign, $13.4 million.
5. Sparkle, $12 million.
6. The Dark Knight Rises, $11.1 million.
7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green, $10.9 million.
8. Hope Springs, $9.1 million.
9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, $3.9 million ($867,000 international).
10. Total Recall, $3.5 million.