'Bridesmaids' a strong second with $22.4 mil

Paramount’s mighty hammer “Thor” took a second swing at the weekend’s B.O., while Universal’s pack of badly behaving women in “Bridesmaids” crossed gender lines to score a strong opening perf.

“Thor,” with its estimated $34.5 million weekend take, maintained a two-week domestic winning streak for a cume of $119.3 million. But Universal can hardly complain as it commandeered the frame’s following two slots: “Bridesmaids” pulled head of “Fast Five” in a surprise maneuver, bowing to an estimated $24.4 million vs. $19.5 million for third place “Five,” cuming $168.8 million.

Thanks to tentpoles like “Thor” and “Fast Five,” U’s “Bridesmaids,” along with fellow opener Sony/Screen Gems’ “Priest,” likely rode the wave of better summer-moviegoing conditions and kept this weekend’s overall totals in line with 2010.

Pre-weekend tracking services had set the bar low for the two opening films, but they have proven to be less reliable in recent weeks as major franchise titles have bowed.

“Bridesmaids,” which opened at 2,918 U.S. locations, came in well over U’s expectations — and everyone else’s, for that matter — because of a better-than-expected turnout among men. The femme-driven R-rated comedy, from producer Judd Apatow, brought in more money than “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” in its 2005 opening frame ($21.4 million).

Meanwhile, Sony’s debut 3D title “Priest” collected an estimated $14.5 million from 2,864 locations, of which 58% came from 2,006 3D runs. “We hoped we’d be in this range, and we ended up higher,” said Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer.

“Priest” actually earned less from 3D per location than 2D, similar to “Thor” last weekend. Sony reported early overseas projections for “Priest” at $16.7 million from more than 40 territories, including Brazil, France, Germany, India and Mexico. Pic now has cumed $25.6 million internationally after two weeks.

“Fast Five” won the overseas crown for its second consecutive weekend, estimating $58 million from 61 markets for a cume of $271.7 million. “Thor,” which has been battling with “Five” for international bragging rights, took this weekend with an estimated $27.5 million from 60 markets, bringing its tally to $225 million.

B.O. gender lines

The weekend’s demo derby figured to be split, with “Bridesmaids” attracting a dominant female audience, and “Priest” stronger with males. And while that mostly held true, “Bridesmaids” drew more men to the plexes than expected, accounting for one out of three ticket buyers.

“Priest,” however, still played more evenly than “Bridesmaids” between men and women, with a 57%-43% male-female split.

Nikki Rocco, prexy of domestic distribution for U, said she expects the demo base for “Bridesmaids” to broaden in the coming weeks, based on positive word-of-mouth and a B+ CinemaScore rating. U marketed the film as a femme-driven raunchfest, with hopes of appealing to men as well as women. To that end, the studio used multiple trailers for the film, including a red-band trailer, to garner favor with a broad range of demos.

“We wanted to appeal to different audiences,” Rocco said. “It was always the plan to show a variety of trailers to showcase different elements of the movie.”

Meanwhile, Sony, via the studio’s Screen Gems label, kept marketing costs down on “Priest” by targeting male audiences. “Priest,” budgeted at about $60 million, is Screen Gems’ most expensive pic to date and scored a poor C+ CinemaScore rating.

Despite the film’s less-restrictive PG-13 rating, “Priest” had more opening auds aged over 25, at 57%, which could account for the poor exit polls. Pic’s larger adult crowd also could be the reason — at least, in part — for the film’s modest 3D share.

Holdover headliners

Twentieth Century Fox’s 3D toon pic “Rio” caught a nice tailwind, enough to support a mere 6% drop in its fifth frame. “Rio,” with its estimated weekend take of $8 million, beat out a list of fresher holdovers, including soph pair “Jumping the Broom” and “Something Borrowed,” to nab the No. 5 spot. In fact, the Fox toon hasn’t dropped further than fifth place since bowing April 15.

“Rio” has grossed to date nearly $125 million domestically, and with its international tally at $306 million, the pic’s worldwide haul reached $431 million. That’s just behind “Fast Five” — 2011’s highest global grosser, with $440.5 million.

Par’s “Thor,” steadily approaching with $334 million worldwide, fell just 48% in its second U.S. outing, which Par vice chairman Rob Moore contributed to a sizeable increase in family biz on Saturday. Pic’s second-week hold domestically is much better than drops for comparable titles like 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” down 69%, and “Fantastic Four,” which fell 59% in 2005.

Fox had another notable domestic holdover, “Water for Elephants,” which dropped only 32% in its fourth frame, estimating $4.1 million for the weekend.

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