Beat by Despicable Me 2 and Adam Sandler's ensemble comedy Grown Ups 2, Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim failed to do monster business in its North American debut, posing a potential financial loss for Thomas Tull's Legendary Pictures.
Pacifc Rim opened to $38.3 million, a troubling number considering the movie's production budget of at least $190 million. Legendary footed most of the bill, with distribution and marketing partner Warner Bros. putting up a minority stake. Rolling out in its first 38 foreign markets, the 3D tentpole took in $53 million for a worldwide total of $91.3 million. While strong in Asia, Russia and Mexico, Pacific Rim was soft elsewhere.
Universal's box office hit Despicable 2 stayed at No. 1 in its second weekend, grossing $44.8 million for a domestic total of $229.2 million. The 3D animated tentpole also came in No. 1 internationally, grossing $55.7 million from 50 markets for a worldwide total of $472.4 million. It has earned $243.2 million at the foreign box office and will eclipse the entire run of Despicable Me this week ($293 million).
Despicable 2 topped the global box office for the weekend with $100.5 million in ticket sales; Pacific Rim followed with $91.3 million.
Sony's Grown Ups 2 opened to a stellar $42.5 million domestically in a needed win for Sandler, who has had a string of box office disappointments. The sequel opened slightly ahead of the 2010 original, not accounting for inflation.
"We're feeling great. It was a fairly competitive weekend and to gross more than the first film is great. The sequel played everywhere and to the whole family," said Sony worldwide president of distribution Rory Bruer.
Grown Ups 2 skewed slightly female (53 percent), while 54 percent of the audience was under 25.
Despite being ravaged by critics, Grown Ups 2 received a B- CinemaScore, same as the 2010 original. The sequel, costing a relatively modest $80 million to produce, reteams Sandler with Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello.
Fox's Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy comedy The Heat placed No. 4 in its third outing, jumping the $100 million mark and ending the weekend with a North American cume of $112.4 million.
Coming in No. 5 was Gore Verbinski's troubled The Lone Ranger, which tumbled a steep 61 percent to $11.1 million in its second weekend for a tepid domestic cume of $77.1 million. Overseas, the big-budget tentpole took in a meek $12.7 million from 33 territories for an international total of $48 million and worldwide cume of $119.1 million.
Lone Ranger has a number of major markets in which to open, but box-office observers and Wall Street anlaysts are predicting a major loss for Disney of between $150 million and $200 million.
Unless Pacific Rim does extraordinarily well overseas, or enjoys a huge multiple at the North American box office, it is also likely to result in a major loss for Legendary. The movie opens just as Legendary prepares to leave Warners for its new co-financing and production deal with Universal.
Marking del Toro's first big-budget tentpole, Pacific Rim pits giant robots against alien monsters and stars Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Day. The movie has received glowing reviews, while receiving an equally glowing A- CinemaScore.
Defying soft prerelease tracking, Pacific Rim got off to a better-than-expected start Thursday night and Friday, but once fanboy traffic started tapering off late Friday, the movie slowed.
WB waged an aggressive last-minute marketing effort, and the studio's president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman says it paid off.
"Two weeks ago, we were looking at an opening of $25 million to $30 million," he said. "This result is just what we've hoped for. There's nobody that doesn't like this movie, and it's Guillermo's biggest opening to date. Now, our job is to broaden the base."
Fellman said the studio will accomplish this by airing ads that tout reviews and the audience CinemaScore.
IMAX theaters -- the favored venue for fanboys -- ponied up a robust $7.3 million in Pacific Rim ticket sales. In another sign that fanboys turned out in force, more than 50 percent of the overall gross came from 3D screens, a record for the summer.
Younger moviegoers made up the biggest percentage of the audience for Pacific Rim, with 47 percent of those buying tickets under the age of 25 and 67 percent under the age of 35.
Overseas, Pacific Rim launched to strong numbers in Asia, Russia and Mexico -- del Toro's home country -- but came in No. 3 in Australia behind fellow opener The Heat and Despicable Me 2. It came in No. 2 in the U.K. behind Monsters University, grossing $3.2 million.
So far internationally, the tentpole is outpacing a slew of films that went on to gross between $300 million and $400 million overseas, including Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Clash of the Titans and Prometheus. It's also pacing on par with World War Z, which has earned more than $200 million to date at the foreign box office.
Korea leads with $9.6 million, followed by Russia with $9.3 million. Mexico opened with $5.3 million, three times bigger than any of del Toro's previous films. On Monday, Pacific Rim is expected to surpass the lifetime gross of Pan's Labyrinth ($5.8 million).
Pacific Rim only opened in 50 percent of the foreign marketplace and still has a number of major markets in which to open, including France, Germany, China, Spain and Brazil.
Making headlines at the specialty box office in North America was The Weinstein Co.'s critically acclaimed Fruitvale Station, about the the shooting of a young African-American man by BART police in Oakland. The film -- opening just as George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting Trayvon Martin -- grossed $377,285 from seven theaters for a location average of $53,898, the third best of the year so far.
Fruitvale star Michael B. Jordan and first-time feature director Ryan Coogler have been vocal in comparing the two shootings, and the issues they raise.
Fox Searchlight's The Way, Way Back performed nicely as it expanded into a total of 79 theaters, grossing $1.1 million for a location average of $14,051 and cume of $1.8 million.