Box Office: 'Need for Speed' Sputters With $17.8 Million

DreamWorks' new Aaron Paul racing movie Need for Speed stalled in its North American debut, coming in No. 3 with $17.8 million behind weekend winner Mr. Peabody & Sherman and 300: Rise of an Empire.

The $66 million movie made up ground overseas, however, where it took in $45.6 million from 40 territories, including a $21.2 million launch in China, for a worldwide start of $63.4 million.

"It's a disappointing start on the domestic side, but to open to that number worldwide and nearly match the budget of the film is great. This was a very affordable movie and with many territories left to open, everyone will be just fine. We feel great about where we are," said Dave Hollis, distribution chief for Disney, which is DreamWorks' partner and released Need for Speed in North America and select overseas markets.

Peabody, falling a slim 34 percent in its second weekend, topped the North American chart with $21.2 million from 3,951 theaters for a solid 10-day domestic total of $63.2 million for DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox. The 3D animated film took in $15.3 million internationally for the weekend for a global total of $148.8 million.

Warner Bros. and Legendary's Rise of an Empire -- hurting Need for Speed, since both appeal heavily to males -- grossed $19.1 million from 3,490 locations for a 10-day North American total of $78.3 million. The sequel fell 58 percent, normal for its genre (Need for Speed, Peabody and Rise of an Empire are all 3D releases).

Overseas, Rise of an Empire remained a powerhouse, grossing $41.3 million from 62 markets for a foreign total of $158 million and world cume of $236.3 million.

Need for Speed, playing in 3,115 theaters and receiving poor reviews, opens at a crucial time for Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider's DreamWorks. The company is at a time of transition, with Snider being wooed for a top job at 20th Century Fox. And DreamWorks is coming off of two box-office misses, The Fifth Estate and Delivery Man.

Heading into the weekend, prerelease tracking suggested the movie would open in the $25 million to $30 million range, but those most interested -- males under 18 -- failed to show up in sufficient numbers. Instead, males between the ages of 18 and 34 fueled the film (56 percent).

"Ironically, males under 18 were the group that liked the movie the most, but didn't show up like we thought they would," Hollis said.

Need for Speed, directed by Scott Waugh, is adapted from the wildly popular Electronic Arts game, which has racked up sales in the $4 billion range. Paul -- looking to propel his Breaking Bad role into a movie career -- plays Tobey Marshall, who sets off on a cross-country race to avenge the death of a friend.

Overseas -- where Mister Smith Entertainment is handling the film in Europe and the Middle East -- Need for Speed earned $5.5 million in Russia, $3.5 million in the U.K., $1.9 million in Malaysia, $1.4 million in Australia and $1.3 million in Brazil. The movie has yet to open in major markets including France and Germany.

The weekend's other new nationwide entry, Lionsgate's female-centric Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club, also stumbled, grossing $8.3 million from 3,183 theaters. That's the worst opening of Tyler Perry's prolific feature directing career behind the $11.2 million launch of Daddy's Little Girls in February 2007, despite earning an A- CinemaScore.

Directed and written by Perry, Moms Club stars Nia Long, Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, Terry Crews, William Levy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Perry. Nearly 80 percent of the audience was female; an equal number were over the age of 25.

At the specialty box office, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel continued to absolutely wow, grossing a whopping $3.6 million as it expanded from four to 66 theaters in its second weekend. From Fox Searchlight, the film came in No. 8 and boasts an early domestic total of $4.8 million. Its location average was $55,152 -- the best of the weekend by far.

Overseas, Grand Budapest, starring Ralph Fiennes, earned another $6.7 million from 13 markets for an early total of $20 million.

Another film hardly disappointing is Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars, the feature based on the Kristen Bell TV series that was made a reality after a $5.7 million fundraising campaign on Kickstarter. The movie, playing in only 291 theaters in North America, including 265 in the U.S., grossed $2 million to tie with The Monuments Men for No. 10. Its location average was $6,945.

It is unheard of for a Hollywood studio to open a film in theaters and also make it available to buy or rent online. Warner Bros., however, rented out the theaters, with the majority being AMC locations.

"In many of these complexes, it was the No. 1 grossing film," said Warners executive vice president of distribution Jeff Goldstein. "There is just incredible interest in this film, and we released it theatrically to set it up for the ancillary markets. This is all outside the norm."

Goldstein said information about digital sales and rentals won't be available until Wednesday, although Veronica Mars was ranking No. 3 on iTunes.

Results were mixed for new specialty offering Bad Words, the R-rated black comedy directed by and starring Jason Bateman. The movie, acquired by Focus Features at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, opened in six theaters, grossing $120,000 for a so-so location average of $20,000.

Back on the top 10 chart, Liam Neeson's Non-Stop placed No. 4 with $10.6 million for a domestic total of $68.8 million.

Warners and Village Roadshows' The Lego Movie grossed $7.7 million to place No. 6, ending Sunday with a domestic total of $236.9 million. Overseas, it earned another $4.7 million from 52 territories for an international cume of $141.5 million and global haul of $378.4 million.

Christian film Son of God took the No. 7 spot in North America, grossing $5.4 million and crossing the $50 million mark.

The unstoppable Frozen came in No. 9 with $2.1 million for a domestic total of $396 million. Worldwide, the Disney film has now earned $1.026 billion worldwide, surpassing fellow Disney title Alice in Wonderland ($1.025 billion) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($1.017 billion) to become the No. 15 top-grossing title of all time.

In tying for the No. 10 spot with Veronica Mars, George Clooney's The Monuments Men boosted its domestic total to $73.8 million. Worldwide, it has now earned $128 million after earning another $8.2 million internationally.

The Metropolitan's The Met: Live in HD program turned in another strong performance with Saturday's live theater transmission of Massenet’s Werther, which grossed $1.53 million from roughly 850 screens across the country.