300 sequel topples Mr. Peabody

Posted: March 14, 2014 at 2:26 a.m.

Sullivan Stapleton stars as Themistokles in the action fi lm 300: Rise of an Empire. It came in first at last weekend’s box office and made about $45 million.

Action sequel 300: Rise of an Empire, about the Persian invasion of ancient Greece, topped last weekend’s box office in its debut, beating DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

Seven years after the success of the first 300 film, Rise of an Empire drew about $45 million for Warner Bros., Rentrak Corp. said Sunday. Mr. Peabody & Sherman, about the time-traveling adventures of a dog and his boy, placed second with about $32 million for the weekend.

An aggressive marketing campaign by Warner Bros. helped push Rise of an Empire to the top slot, overcoming mixed reviews and an R-rating by drawing female viewers into theaters and offering a 3-D version that boosted ticket revenue.

The first installment of 300 booked $71 million in its debut. Rise of an Empire had been forecast to take in $33 million in its opening weekend, according to Boxoffice.com. While only 43 percent of critics gave it a favorable review, 70 percent of fans liked the film, according to Rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates responses.

Screenings in three-dimensional format generated 63 percent of domestic ticket sales, Goldstein said.

Zack Snyder, who directed the first 300 and went on to direct the Superman remake Man of Steel, served as co-writer and producer of the sequel. Made for $100 million, according to researcher Box Office Mojo, it features Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green. The films are based on graphic novels by Frank Miller.

The first 300 grossed more than $456 million worldwide in its 2007 theater run, putting the film in the top 10 for the year, according to Box Office Mojo.

With Rise of an Empire,Warner Bros. marks its second No. 1 film debut of the year, following The Lego Movie, which fell to fourth from third this weekend with $11 million in ticket sales.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman also exceeded estimates, having been forecast to generate $28 million for the weekend. The film, distributed by 2oth Century Fox Inc., cost Dream-Works Animation about $145 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo.

Among other returning films, Non-Stop, featuring Liam Neeson, generated about $16 million, falling to third from first. The movie has taken in $52.5 million domestically for Universal Pictures after two weeks. Son of God, released by Fox, dropped to fifth from second place with about $10 million.

Last weekend also marked the U.S. release of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel by Fox Searchlight.

The comedy, which stars Ralph Fiennes and other A-list actors, took in about $800,000 in four theaters.

Fox Searchlight also more than doubled the theaters showing 12 Years a Slave after it won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It took in more than $2 million, more than double the previous weekend, and moved back into the top 10, even though it is available for home viewing. It has grossed more than $53 million so far in the domestic market.

The weekend box office for all films rose 0.9 percent from a year earlier, according to Rentrak. So far in 2014, revenue has increased 9.9 percent to $1.86 billion.

The box office will get a boost this month with Divergent, from Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. The film, based on the young-adult science-fiction novel, opens in the U.S. on March 21. Advance ticket sales have outpaced the first Twilight, according to online ticket vendor Fandango.

MovieStyle, Pages 36 on 03/14/2014