Rom-com earns $33.3 mil to best trio of overperforming wide releases

Domestic moviegoers were out in force this weekend, while Universal’s “Battleship” and “Titanic” 3D continue to shore up overseas box office.

A trio of Stateside wide releases overperformed, led by Sony-Screen Gems’ comedy “Think Like a Man,” which collected an estimated $33 million, followed by a $22.8 million debut for Warner Bros.’ Nicholas Sparks adaptation of “The Lucky One.”

Also beating expectations, Disney’s fourth docu released via its Disneynature label, “Chimpanzee,” landed in the double digits through Sunday with an estimated $10.2 million, beating 2010’s “Earth” (at $8.8 million) to become Disneynature’s biggest opening so far domestically. Universal’s “Battleship,” meanwhile, swapped places overseas with “Titanic” 3D, nabbing an estimated $58.4 million from 50 locations and pushing the pic’s international cume beyond $100 million. “Titanic” earned another $34 million for a total tally of $225.7 million.

“Battleship” expanded this weekend into Russia and China. The latter contributed $17 million in five days, making it the biggest opening weekend ever in that country for a Universal film.

In Russia, “Battleship” grossed an estimated $10.7 million — better than the local openings of “Fast Five,” “John Carter,” “Thor” and “Wrath of the Titans.”

“Battleship” has 14 markets to go; pic bows Stateside on May 18.

As year-to-year comparisons go, the domestic B.O.’s top 10 pulled an unexpected rabbit out of its hat, managing to outperform the top titles during the same frame last year, which was Easter weekend.

“Chimpanzee” wasn’t expected to breach $10 million, while “Think Like a Man” and “The Lucky One” were projected to land somewhere in the teens.

Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games” fell from No. 1 after five weeks, with an estimated $14.5 million, though the film dropped just 31%. Pic has cumed north of $350 million domestically, with overseas totals surpassing $200 million.

Several films gained solid footing at the weekend’s specialty B.O., including Sony Pictures Classics’ “Darling Companion,” which scored an opening $11,574 per-screen average at four locations, and Magnolia’s Bob Marley music-doc “Marley,” which averaged an estimated $6,190 from 42 playdates .

B.O.’s ‘Man’ power

Though driven by African American auds, “Think Like a Man” attracted a diverse crowd, with a substantial over-30 female turnout.

Based on Steve Harvey’s bestseller “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” the pic benefited from plugs on networks including VH1, Oxygen, Comedy Central and Fuse.

Harvey tubthumped “Man” on his morning TV skein in an effort to target African-Americans.

Sony also hosted regional screenings that were attended by some of the film’s cast and filmmakers. Pic stars Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Chris Brown and is directed by Tim Story.

“For every screening we had of this film, the exit poll ratings were through the roof,” said Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer. “It really is a stunning result when you consider the movie cost around $12 million.”

“Man” is the third No. 1 opening for Screen Gems this year, after “Underworld Awakening,” which bowed in January to $25 million, and the studio’s biggest opener, “The Vow,” which nabbed $41 million the following month.

WB’s “The Lucky One” also represented a limited financial risk, with a pricetag in the $20 million range, and now is the second-highest opening of a Sparks adaptation, behind “Dear John’s” $30 million bow.

Not surprisingly, “Lucky One,” which toplines Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling, scored most of its opening from femme auds who were about evenly split between those over and under 25.

That said, Efron was the pic’s major draw: According to Warner exit polls, more than half of the film’s total audience said they saw the film because of Efron.

“Lucky One” nabbed a B+ CinemaScore; “Think Like a Man,” meanwhile, scored an A rating.

Disney’s monkey business

In an effort to increase awareness for “Chimpanzee,” Disney and AMC Entertainment partnered to screen a two-minute “making-off” trailer leading up to opening weekend. The trailer featured helmers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, along with some of the pic’s other filmmakers.

Nature docs like “Chimpanzee” typically see broad group sales.

For instance, Disneynature’s inaugural film “Earth” heavily targeted schools and bowed on Earth Day 2007. That pic stands as the highest-grossing Stateside release for the nature label, cuming $32 million domestically.

“Chimpanzee” could beat that, benefiting from positive word-of- mouth and an A CinemaScore.

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