'Horrible,' 'Zookeeper' open at high end of projections

The weekend’s domestic B.O. was characterized by a mix of key expected outcomes added to a few pleasant surprises.

Paramount’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” won Stateside bragging rights for its second straight weekend, with an estimated $47 million from 4,107 locations. That reps an expected three-day decline of 52% — significantly better than its predecessor’s 61% second-frame drop.

Not-so expected, however, were this weekend’s debut perfs from “Horrible Bosses” and “Zookeeper,” which bowed to either better-than or at the high end of pre-weekend projections.

Warner Bros.’ “Bosses,” from New Line and producer Brett Ratner, scored an estimated $28.1 million, outdoing even the most optimistic B.O. predictions of a bow nearer to $25 million. Prior to the weekend, Warners said it would be happy with a launch anywhere north of $20 million. Sony’s “Zookeeper” was projected to land at about $20 million and wound up with an estimated $21 million through Sunday.

But “Dark of the Moon” and the frame’s debut pair were unable to equal the year-earlier weekend B.O., with the total off approximately 18%.

That marks another expected turn since “Despicable Me” won the comparable 2010 frame with $56.4 million, followed by a $31.7 million repeat perf from “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” (This past weekend perhaps suffered from middle-child syndrome as it was sandwiched between last weekend’s noisy “Transformers” debut and next weekend’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” which could see a record-breaking three-day sesh.)

Domestically, “Dark of the Moon” has tallied $261 million vs. the $293 million “Revenge of the Fallen” had cumed after its second weekend. But in the six days following July 4, “Moon” has outpaced its predecessor by 2%, suggesting the third film could ultimately eclipse the franchise’s second offering domestically. (“Dark of the Moon” came in with about 6% less than “Revenge of the Fallen” opening weekend.)

“The first few days we were playing behind (‘Revenge of the Fallen’), and now we’re doing better,” said Par vice chairman Rob Moore. “No one else can say that about a similar franchise.”

For instance, the third installments in both the “Spider-Man” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises earned less than what the second offerings made in the week following opening weekend.

“Dark of the Moon” is boosted by better word of mouth, as well as higher 3D ticket prices.

Imax contributed an estimated $4.7 million — 10% of the pic’s domestic weekend gross. “Dark of the Moon,” which has cumed $21.5 million in Imax Stateside, saw a drop of just 38%. Pic will, however, lose all Imax runs next weekend when “Hallows: Part 2″ bows.

‘Moon’ shines overseas

Internationally, “Dark of the Moon,” with a total $384 million, is running 28% ahead of the previous “Transformers” pic, which cumed $300.5 million through its second Sunday.

Moore said he expects “Dark of the Moon” ultimately to outpace its predecessor by 50% overseas.

That’s a lofty projection, especially with Warner’s “Hallows: Part 2″ opening worldwide Friday. But “Revenge of the Fallen,” which cumed $434 million internationally, faced a “Potter” pic in 2009: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” launched the weekend of July 15, less than a month after “Transformers.”

Now in its second frame, “Dark of the Moon” took in an additional estimated $93 million, led by South Korea’s $16.7 million take (down just 33%) and $7.7 million in both the U.K. and Australia, which repped soph sesh drops of 23% and 43%, respectively. In South Korea, the pic has cumed $53 million — the most ever for a movie in 12 days — while cume reached $31.8 million in Blighty and $29.3 million in Oz.

Up next for “Dark of the Moon” is China on July 21, followed by a July 29 berth in Japan. (Both territories are expected to be major contributors).

Solid Stateside newbies

Both wide releases, “Bosses” and “Zookeeper,” benefited as successful counterprogramming. “Bosses” played to a mostly over-25 male crowd, while families comprised 52% of the “Zookeeper” aud.

“Bosses” marks the summer’s fourth R-rated comedy to overperform during opening weekend after “Bridesmaids,” “The Hangover Part II” and “Bad Teacher.” Jeff Goldstein, Warners exec VP of distribution, opined that each subsequent R-comedy has fed on audience popularity for the previous pic. “The R-rated comedies are really successful simply because people need to laugh,” Goldstein said.

Sony’s “Bad Teacher” displayed the frame’s strongest hold, down 38%, while even “Bridesmaids,” which fell from the top 10 for the first time in nine weeks to No. 11, dropped just 26%. “Bad Teacher” has cumed $78.8 million; “Bridesmaids,” $158.2 million.

Like “Bridesmaids,” which gained 35% from Friday to Saturday during its opening weekend, “Bosses” saw an uptick after opening day — though not as much at 5%. That may reflect good word of mouth and thus bodes well.

“Bosses” and “Zookeeper” each scored an overall B+ CinemaScore, and played better (A- ratings) with younger auds.

Not surprisingly, 53% of the aud for the family-targeted “Zookeeper” were women, most likely moms. Over-25 auds repped 59% of the pic’s opening demo. “Those are great exits to have, because it means that you’re getting nearly everyone,” said Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer. I have to give a lot of credit to Kevin James, because he’s such a terrific partner.”

“Zookeeper,” which cost a reported $80 million, had help from overseas wickets, grossing an estimated $7.5 million from 19 territories, including Germany, where it earned $3 million, and Mexico, $2.5 million.

SPC’s stellar pair

Sony Pictures Classics had a nice weekend with a solid duo — one new, the other continuing to play in top form.

Music docu “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” debuted at two locations each in New York and L.A. for a total estimated at $120,016. Pic averaged $30,004 per screen for this year’s second-best per-screen average for a docu behind “Bill Cunningham New York,” which bowed on one screen with $33,677.

Meanwhile, Woody Allen’s resilient specialty pic “Midnight in Paris” added $2.7 million (down 24% at 39 fewer locations) in its eighth week for a domestic cume of $38.7 million. That just surpasses “Annie Hall” ($38.3 million) but is short of Allen’s top-grossing pic, “Hannah and Her Sisters,” with $40.1 million.

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