Buddy pic cuffs reigning champ 'Inception'

Sony’s comedy “The Other Guys,” toplining Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as low-octane detectives, topped the domestic B.O. this weekend with an estimated $35.6 million at 3,651 playdates.

The pic’s hearty start was more than enough to overpower Warner Bros.’ sleeping giant “Inception,” which fell to the frame’s No. 2 spot after a three-week reign, adding an estimated $18.6 million for a cume of $227.7 million.

“Inception” dropped only 32%, and managed to top the frame’s other wide release, Disney’s dance entry “Step Up 3D,” which estimated $15.5 million at 2,435 locations. The dance franchise’s first 3D foray earned approximately 81% of its weekend gross from 1,826 3D-equipped locations, repping 75% of the total count.

Playing well alongside more commercial fare, Focus Features’ “The Kids Are All Right” rounded out the top 10, with an estimated $2.6 million at 994 engagements.

Last weekend, Focus expanded the film’s rollout nationwide, with hopes of broadening appeal during the remaining weeks of summer. So far, “Kids” has cumed a sizable $14 million.

Still, the frame’s top players weren’t enough to continue a trend of up weekends, as this weekend was down some 10% compared with the same frame last year, when Paramount’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and Sony’s “Julie and Julia” were tops with $54.7 million and $20 million, respectively.

Overseas, Disney/Pixar’s well-drawn holdover “Toy Story 3″ continues to fetch impressive international totals, contributing an additional $29.4 million to a total of $498.7 million. “Toy 3″ currently ranks as the third-highest grossing toon internationally, trailing only “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” ($688.2 million) and “Finding Nemo” ($528.2 million).

“Step Up 3D” debuted in 11 day-and-date markets, totaling an estimated $12.3 million on 1,606 screens.

In the U.K., the film’s $3.2 million take trailed a $7.7 million weekend total for “Toy 3″ but outpaced Blighty’s similar 3D offering “Streetdance 3D,” which opened in the U.K. with $2.6 million on May 21.

While “Step Up” skewed heavily toward female auds (60%), the majority of Stateside grosses for “The Other Guys” was driven primarily by men (56%). Pic’s PG-13 rating also lowered the bar for younger auds, with 55% aged 25 and under, of which 18% were younger than 17. “Step Up,” also rated PG-13, targeted a similar age demo, with a whopping 75% of moviegoers aged between 12 and 25.

“Guys” marks the second solid opening for a Sony male-driven comedy this summer. The studio’s Adam Sandler-led ensemble “Grown Ups,” which debuted with $40.5 million on June 25, has cumed a boffo $155.7 million. And while “Grown Ups” scored an A- CinemaScore rating when it bowed June 25, auds gave “Guys” a B- rating, which could mean less business among broader demos in repeat frames.

Still, with generally positive reviews, Sony prexy of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said he has high hopes for “Guys” as it plays throughout August and early September.

“Certainly, in our world of Will Ferrell, as well as Adam Sandler, multiples on our comedies have been really solid,” Bruer said.

“Guys” now stands as the second-highest opening for Ferrell, behind the thesp’s most lucrative collaboration with helmer Adam McKay, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” which Sony launched on Aug. 4, 2006, earning $47 million.

In the pair’s most recent outing, Ferrell stars alongside Wahlberg, as they try to resurrect their reputations on the New York police force. Thesps Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson co-star as the ill-fated elite team.

“Step Up 3D” is the third offering in Disney’s dance franchise, with “Step Up” and “Step Up 2: The Streets” having posted $253.4 million worldwide. Helmer Jon Chu, who also directed the second pic, shot the latest offering in 3D, a format Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane said played ideally to the pic’s younger crowd. “If you’re a young person, the 3D and the soundtrack is what makes the movie,” Viane said.

According to Disney, the 3D format helped boost overall appeal, with 2D receiving a B+ CinemaScore rating, while the 3D presentation fared slightly better, scoring an A- rating.

With three other 3D titles still playing in the frame’s top 10 (“Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” “Despicable Me” and “Toy Story 3″), Viane said the crowded 3D front likely cost “Step Up” additional seats. “You’re very limited when you’re the fourth movie in an already tight market,” he added.

There are some 2,550 3D locations in the U.S. and an average of only two 3D auditoriums per plex. This means four titles (not including Par’s “The Last Airbender”) have to fight for prime timeslots on an average theater’s two 3D screens.

“Inception” continued to hold well, with Imax dates contributing $2.5 million of the weekend take, down only 25% compared with last weekend’s share. Imax totals for “Inception” reached a heady $26.2 million on 197 screens.

Among the frame’s soph offerings, Par’s laffer “Dinner for Schmucks” ranked highest (No. 5), with an estimated $10.5 million for a cume of $46.7 million. “Dinner” slipped a considerable 55%, compared with Warner’s 3D pet pic “Revenge of Kitty Galore,” which fell 44%, adding $6.9 million, for a domestic total of $26.4 million.

Universal’s Zac Efron-weeper “Charlie St. Cloud,” which dropped a steep 62% in its second outing, likely competed for femme auds with “Step Up 3D.” “Charlie” posted an additional $4.7 million and has cumed $23.5 million.

In limited release, Warner debuted helmer Rob Reiner’s family-friendly “Flipped” at 45 locations, earning an estimated $234,000 for a per-screen average of $5,200. Based on Wendelin Van Draanen’s book, “Flipped,” from Castle Rock Prods., toplines tykes Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe as childhood sweethearts. Warner launched the film in Los Angeles; Sacramento, Calif.; and Austin, Texas, before expanding wide Aug. 27.

Meanwhile, Par’s adult-themed “Middle Men,” about a group of guys who invented the online billing service for adult websites, launched at 252 playdates, averaging a low-end $1,210 per screen. “Men,” which totaled an estimated $305,000, was independently financed by Oxymoron, with Par Vantage handling U.S. distribution.

Warner’s “Inception” continued to play mind games with overseas auds, topping the foreign front with an estimated $46.6 million in 58 markets. Pic’s overseas cume now flashes a standout $250 million.

“Inception” added Spain and Brazil to its international barrage this weekend, where it grossed $4.5 million and $2 million, respectively. Holdover markets were led by Germany ($5.1 million) and France ($4.2 million), with the U.K. providing solid reinforcement ($3.7 million) despite a crowded frame.

Along with “Step Up 3D,” 20th Century Fox launched its Tom Cruise-starrer “Knight and Day” in the U.K., where it grossed $3.9 million on 432 situations. Warner’s “Revenge of Kitty Galore” also unspooled in Blighty, bringing in $2.6 million on 486. “Knight” tallied a total $12.2 million in 47 markets over the weekend, lifting its overseas cume to a solid $128 million; “Revenge” totaled $6.9 million in 11 territories for a cume of $11.1 million.

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