'Speed Racer' stalls in summer race

“Speed Racer” sputtered out of the starting gate on its first weekend, bowing to a very weak $20.2 million.

Studio estimate put Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s $100 million-plus tentpole in a virtual tie with Fox’s modestly budgeted comedy “What Happens in Vegas.” Both placed far behind Marvel and Par’s blockbuster “Iron Man,” which dropped 49% to $50.5 million in its second frame.

“Racer” ended up well under already soft industry estimates for the Wachowski Brothers-helmed actioner, which had pegged the pic at around $30 million based on tracking. Equally disastrous foreign bows this weekend gave it a worldwide gross of $33 million, reinforcing that Warner has a bomb on its hands.

“It’s just one of those moments in our business where the results don’t seem to justify our hopes, and we’ll move on,” said WB domestic distribution topper Dan Fellman, who noted that responses were mostly positive from those who attended.

“Speed Racer” got $5,605 on average from its 3,606 screens. As expected, ticket buyers were primarily families with young kids. That could spell trouble next weekend, when Disney and Walden’s similarly targeted “Prince Caspian” opens.

Photo finish between it and “Vegas” means the industry will have to wait for final numbers Monday to see which one ended up No. 2.

Fox was crowing about its somewhat better-than-expected bow, as “Vegas” grossed $20 million and bested “Racer’s” per-play take, averaging $6,221 from 3,215 theaters. Pic played broadly to an aud that was just slightly tilted toward women.

“We think it’s a great result for a $35 million film in the summer,” said senior veep of distribution Chris Aronson.

“Iron Man’s” healthy 49% decline is tied for No. 4 among the other all-time top 10 domestic openers. Pic played to a slightly more female crowd than on its first frame, indicating positive word of mouth helped bring in some who were initially reluctant to see a big-budget superhero pic.

“It’s a real testament that this is definitely a notch above your normal action-adventure movie in terms of the quality of the filmmaking and acting,” said Par prexy of worldwide marketing and distribution Rob Moore.

After 11 days, “Iron Man” has racked up a boffo $177.1 million and will easily surge past the $200 million mark in the next week. Worldwide, Marvel’s first self-financed pic has cumed $342 million.

Also this frame, Sony Pictures Classics took David Mamet’s actioner “Redbelt” wide to 1,379 plays on its second weekend and managed only $1.1 million, or $827 per location.

In limited release, “Son of Rambow” expanded from five to 36 theaters and grossed $137,971, or $3,833 per playdate. Cume is $210,974. Par Vantage plans to expand the pic to between 75 and 90 locations on Friday.

ThinkFilm expanded romantic comedy “Then She Found Me” from 72 to 153 theaters for Mother’s Day and grossed $489,072, or $3,197 per play. Cume on the Helen Hunt starrer is $912,086.

SPC nearly doubled the print count of docu “Standard Operating Procedure” to 21 but saw the gross actually decline slightly to $30,850. Per play average was $1,469 and cume after three weeks is $100,383.

Despite “Speed Racer’s” disappointing performance, overall biz was up 21% from last year, according to Media by Numbers.

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