Par's 'Dinner' plays best among new releases

Warner Bros.’ mind-thriller “Inception” claimed the domestic B.O.’s top spot for its third consecutive weekend, posting an estimated $27.5 million at 3,545 locations. Pic’s take, which lifted Stateside totals to an impressive $193.3 million, was enough to top a trio of wide releases.

“Inception” is the third title this year to claim B.O.’s triple crown, joining “Alice in Wonderland” and “Shrek Forever After.” “Avatar” topped the frame for seven consecutive weeks, five of which were in 2010.

Warner prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman attributed “Inception’s” repeat victories, in part, to multiple viewings among moviegoers. “I call it our hat trick,” Fellman said, referring to pic’s complex narrative, which has sent some auds back to the multiplexes with unanswered questions.

Among new entries, Paramount laffer “Dinner for Schmucks,” starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, fared best, with an estimated $23.3

million at 2,911 engagements.

Warner’s 3D pet sequel “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” debuted in the No. 5 spot with $12.5 million at 3,705, followed closely by “Charlie St. Cloud,” which Universal launched at 2,718 locations for an estimated weekend take of $12.1 million.

Despite a crowded frame, there were several standout perfs from repeat pics, including Sony’s “Salt” and U’s 3D toon “Despicable Me.” “Salt,” which claimed the No. 3 spot behind “Dinner,” fell 47% in its second outing for an estimated $19.3 million, cuming $70.8 million; “Despicable” dropped a mere 34%, adding $15.5 million to its $190.3 million total.

Focus Features also managed to break through the B.O. clutter, with its indie hit “The Kids Are All Right” scoring an estimated $3.5 million at 847 playdates, up from 201 last weekend. Focus expanded “Kids” to smaller markets in an attempt to lengthen its summer playtime and distance itself from studio fare targeting similar female demos.

“Kids” was up a sizeable 33% compared to last weekend as arthouses drove the weekend perf, with more commercial venues boosting the tally. Pic averaged $4,090 per screen.

As with its repeat Stateside dominance, “Inception” held on to the top spot in several overseas territories this weekend, including France and Australia, where it accounted for more than one-third of the territory’s overall business, with an estimated $5.4 million in its soph sesh. In Gaul, “Inception” posted another $4.8 million, bringing its total there to $15.2 million; pic’s Oz totals stand at an estimated $14.4 million.

Warner mounted a steady overseas rollout of “Inception” since its U.S. debut on July 16. And despite facing tough competish from strong holdovers like Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” the film has cumed a standout $170 million internationally to date. “Inception” and “Toy 3″ both bowed in Germany this weekend.

According to Warner Bros., “Inception” earned approximately 15% of its domestic earnings this weekend from repeat business, up from last weekend’s 11% share. Multiple viewings, combined with strong midweek perfs, should continue to help boost the pic’s Stateside cume. Pic dropped only 36% overall this weekend; pic’s Imax locations dropped 29% for an estimated share of $3.4 million.

“It’s right on target, pushing its way to become one of the summer’s top three movies,” Fellman said.

With this week’s estimates, “Inception” stands as this summer’s fifth highest domestic grosser, trailing “Toy Story 3″ ($389.7 million), “Iron Man 2″ ($311.4 million), “Eclipse” ($288.2 million) and “Shrek Forever After” ($235.6 million).

Par vice chairman Rob Moore said frosh entry “Dinner for Schmucks” could reach high multiples as one of the few summer comedies. Carell’s first-quarter laffer, 20th Century Fox’s “Date Night,” bowed April 9 with $25.2 million and has since cumed a stellar $98.5 million.

“When it comes to comedies, word of mouth is really important, especially when it comes to hearing people talk about having a good time,” Moore said.

Based on Francis Veber’s French hit “The Dinner Game,” pic, which scored an overall B CinemaScore rating, saw an even split between men and women, but skewed slightly more toward auds aged 25 and over (54%).

Budgeted at approximately $63 million, “Dinner” was equally co-produced and co-financed by Par, Spyglass Entertainment and DreamWorks. As part of its separation agreement, Par maintained rights to co-finance the pic and will handle worldwide distribution.

The frame’s other wide releases, “Charlie St. Cloud” and “Cats & Dogs,” both opened at the low end of studio expectations. “Charlie,” which received a B+ CinemaScore rating, played best to young femmes, but also saw a healthy contingent of auds over 25 (41%). Pic’s younger crowd drove strong Friday grosses, but then dropped 32% on Saturday.

Nikki Rocco, U’s prexy of domestic distribution, credited star Zac Efron as the driving force behind the film. “Unfortunately, his fanbase mostly came out on Friday night, but they’re going to continue to support this guy,” she said.

Meanwhile, family auds may have been torn this weekend, with several offerings to choose from, including Warner’s 3D title “Cats & Dogs.” Pic skewed toward male auds (54%), with an expected contingency of those aged 18 and under (46%). Fellman said “Cats” should gain traction during midweek, as parents take their kids to the theaters.

The 3D format, screening at 2,130 locations, contributed a solid 55% of the film’s total weekend take, compared to a 44% opening share for U’s 3D offering “Despicable Me.”

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics launched its folk tale “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek, at four locations for a hefty per-screen average of $22,739. Pic’s overall domestic total reached $90,954.

Also debuting, Magnolia’s Kevin Kline starrer “The Extra Man” opened with an estimated $18,500 at two locations, averaging $9,250 per screen.

Trailing top overseas performer “Inception,” Disney’s “Toy Story 3″ turned in an impressive $33.2 million in foreign box office receipts, bringing its international cume to $436.4 million. With global figures at $826.1 million, “Toy 3″ now stands as the fourth highest-grossing toon globally, behind Disney’s 2003 “Finding Nemo” ($867.8 million).

“Toy 3″ dropped only 30% in the U.K., with $12.4 million on 868 screens, lifting the territory’s totals to $61.4 million. Japan and Spain also ranked as top holdover markets, contributing $7.1 million and $3.3 million, respectively. “Toy 3″ topped the Japanese B.O. for four consecutive weeks, totaling $61.8 million, while the toon’s Spanish totals reached $15.5 million in its second outing.

Sony added 12 markets this weekend to its overseas run of “Salt,” estimating $24.5 million in 29 territories. Top market was South Korea, which tallied an estimated $6.5 million on 531 screens, followed by Russia, with $5.5 million on 706.

Pic is expected to earn sizeable returns as its continues to add markets. Its overseas cume currently stands at $32.8 million for a worldwide haul of $103.6 million.

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