Sony Screen Gems thriller at No. 1

Screen Gems’ obsession with genre pics paid off again for Sony as stalker thriller “Obsessed” opened to an estimated $28.5 million from 2,541runs to lead another boffo weekend at the domestic box office.

Disneynature’s “Earth” also performed well, grossing an estimated $8.6 million for the weekend to score the best domestic opening ever for a nature docu, as well as one of the top openings of all time for any doc. “Earth,” which opened Wednesday, cumed $14.2 million in its first five days for a worldwide total of $94.2 million (film opened overseas last year).

Rogue Pictures and Universal’s “Fighting” also debuted better than expected, grossing an estimated $11.4 million from 2,309 runs to come in No. 3 after “Obsessed” and Warner Bros. holdover “17 Again,” which fell to No. 2 in its second sesh.

The one genre suffering in the current climate is dramas. Paramount’s “The Soloist,” produced by DreamWorks, came in on the low end of expectations, grossing an estimated $9.7 million from 2,024 to place fourth. And in its second weekend, Universal’s “State of Play” tumbled to No. 7, grossing an estimated $6.9 million from 2,807 for a cume of $25.1 million.

Adult-skewing dramas can see good grosses overseas, but the jury’s still out for “State of Play,” which opened in the U.K. over the weekend to a decent $2.4 million. That’s a key territory, since the film is based on the hit BBC miniseries. For the weekend, “State of Play” grossed $3.6 million from five territories for a foreign cume of $6.1 million and worldwide tally of $31.2 million.

Universal still took the No. 1 spot internationally with “Fast and Furious,” which won its third straight weekend with $15.2 million from 6,340 playdates in 59 markets. Foreign cume is $170 million, and with the $145.2 million domestic gross, the worldwide total is $135.2 million.

“Fast and Furious” is among a handful of titles driving a surge in moviegoing in recent months. The weekend — up 28% over the same frame last year — caps a record-breaking winter and spring at the domestic B.O. Studios are looking for the winning streak to continue when summer box office kicks off Friday with the bow of 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

“Obsessed,” starring Beyonce Knowles, Idris Elba and Ali Larter, is the latest example of a film that has overperformed and quickly surpassed the cost of its production budget, in this case under $20 million. Thriller won’t begin to roll out overseas until next month.

“As much as Clint Culpepper’s Screen Gems has had, this is its second-highest grossing film ever after ‘Exorcism of Emily Rose,’ which opened just over $30 million,” said Sony prexy of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer.

“Obsessed” played heavily to African-American auds. The audience was 58% female, while nearly 50% was under age 25.

“Fighting,” which cost $18 million to produce, drew an aud that was 58% male, particularly younger males. Aud was 66% under age 25. Pic, starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard, played heavily to Hispanic moviegoers, who made up 39% of the aud.

Both “Obsessed” and “Fighting” underscore the value of genre pics, although most of the majors have gotten out of that game. Earlier this year, Universal sold Rogue Pictures to Relativity Media, although U will distribute Rogue titles. “Fighting” was made at Universal but was absorbed by Relativity.

“Soloist,” helmed by Joe Wright, toplines Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Film was originally set to open late last year, during awards season, but the release date moved several times.

Most of the moviegoers for “Soloist” were over age 25, while 55% were females.

Paramount exec VP of distribution Don Harris said adult-skewing dramas tend to play longer since adults don’t necessarily turn out on opening weekend.

Box office observers had expected “Soloist” to debut in the $10 million-$12 million range. They say pic could have been dinged by so-so reviews.

Disneynature’s “Earth” played the most broadly, appealing to all age groups. Disneynature was formed a year ago to produce nature films, a Mouse staple in earlier decades.

“What a great start for the new label,” said Disney prexy of distribution Chuck Viane. “We’re going to plant at least 2 million trees in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, since we promised to plant a tree for every ticket sold in the first week.”

“Earth” has already completed its foreign run in a number of territories, including Germany, where it earned $33.2 million. Over the weekend Disney opened the docu in Italy, where it grossed $298,000 at 70 locations.

Michael Moore’s docu “Fahrenheit 9/11″ remains the record-holder for domestic opening ($23.9 million in June 2004) for a docu. It’s also the top-grossing documentary of all time at $119 domestically and $103.3 million internationally.

Excluding concert docus, “Earth” scored the second-best domestic debut of any documentary.

The last nature film to break out was “March of the Penguins,” which cumed $77.3 million domestically and $50 million overseas.

Among holdovers, Warners’ Zac Efron starrer “17 Again” declined 51% in its soph sesh to an estimated $11.7 million from 3,255 for a domestic cume of $40 million. Pic also continued to do respectable business overseas, grossing an estimated $6.8 million from 1,417 in 17 markets for a foreign cume of $27.5 million, with half of that coming from the U.K. Worldwide tally is $67.5 million.

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount’s 3-D toon “Monsters vs. Aliens” had the best hold of the weekend at the domestic B.O., declining 36% to an estimated $8.5 million in its fifth sesh for a cume of $174.8 million. Overseas, it placed No. 2, grossing an estimated $11.2 million from 6,667 in 59 markets for a cume of $143 million and worldwide total of $317 million.

“Fast and Furious” and “Monsters” are the biggest earners of the year at the international B.O.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)

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