The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3″ looked like a franchise that needs to be put out to pasture after the latest film in the action junkie series debuted to a scrawny $16.2 million this weekend, according to studio estimates.

“Expendables'” lack of muscle allowed “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to retain the box office crown it wore last weekend. Paramount Pictures’ reboot of the reptile martial artists series grabbed first place on the charts with $28.4 million in its sophomore weekend. That brings its domestic total to $117.6 million.

Another holdover, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” scored runner-up status. The comicbook adaptation pulled in $24.7 million, driving its total domestic box office to $222.3 million. It looks like it will end up as the summer’s top grossing domestic release, passing “Transformers: Age of Extinction’s” $243.3 million haul.

“Expendables 3’s” opening was a low-point for Sylvester Stallone’s geriatric heroes on a mission pictures. The original film launched to $34.8 million in 2010 while the second installment debuted to $28.6 million in 2012. Audiences may have grown tired of watching AARP members with guns, even if the producers excavated a few more Reagan-era stars in the form of Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson.

It’s been nearly a decade since Indiana Jones and Martin Riggs opened a picture, but “The Expendables 3″ may also have been hurt by piracy. Three weeks before the film hit theaters, a leaked copy was downloaded 189,000 times through piracy sites.

Lionsgate, which is distributing the film in North America, did not release a budget, but if Stallone and company want to get into profitable terrain, they’ll need to do so overseas where audiences have fonder memories of “Cliffhanger” and Jason Statham is next to godliness. Millennium backed the picture.

Stateside, the film debuted in 3,221 theaters and attracted an audience that was 61% male and 66% over the age of 25.  Those who saw it liked it, apparently, rewarding it was an A- CinemaScore rating. The older crowds could bode well for the picture, according to Lionsgate president of domestic distribution Richie Fay.

“Our audience being older has a tendency to come out at their own pace,” he argued. “They’re not driven by publicity to get out on the first weekend. They’re less impulsive. It’s going to be a profitable movie for Lionsgate, one that continues to play.”

“Expendables” sputtered out, but “Let’s Be Cops”  did solid business. The low-budget, $17 million R-rated comedy from 20th Century Fox snagged $17.7 million this weekend in 3,094 locations, and has made $26.1 million since it premiered on Tuesday.

“My take away? Audiences want to laugh,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s distribution chief. “Any time you can gross more than your budget in three days is pretty cool.”

Going into the weekend, some analysts expected the picture to perform even more strongly, possibly passing $20 million for the weekend, but the critics were savage, which likely held down numbers slightly.

The film, which pokes fun at boys in blue, arrived while a real life law enforcement controversy played out in Ferguson, Mo., where the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old by police led to protests. Aronson said there was no impact on “Let’s Be Cops'” box office, noting that art didn’t really imitate life in this case.

“As unfortunate as that situation is, audiences aren’t making a connection,” said Aronson. “This is a flat-out farce.”

It counts as a win for Fox, in a summer filled with them — one that’s seen the releases of “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which danced past $200 million domestically this weekend.

The weekend’s other wide release, “The Giver,” took in a middling $12.8 million over 3,003 locations. The Weinstein Co. backed the $25 million- budgeted film, which adapts Lois Lowry’s widely read futuristic novel.

The studio had expected the film to debut in the mid-teens and was disappointed by the results. “The Giver” brought in a crowd that was two-thirds female, and 53% under the age of 25.  It played particularly well to girls under the age of 17.

“For its core demo, they really like it,” said Erik Lomis, the Weinstein’s Co.’s head of theatrical distribution. “Young girls go crazy for it and we’ve had a lot of success in Middle America. When the dust settles, the movie will find its audience.”

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” barely registered last weekend, when the news was all about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'” box office dominance, but the dueling chefs drama has some impressive legs. The film dropped a mere 35% in its second weekend, picking up $7.1 million and pushing its domestic tally to $23.6 million.

In arthouse news, “The Trip to Italy” opened on three screens, picking up $71,577 for a strong $23,859 per-screen average.  The film reunites gastronomic travelers Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, who memorably unveiled dueling Michael Caine impressions in 2010’s “The Trip,” but substitutes pasta for British cuisine this go round. Probably a good thing for those with a more refined palate, though no offense to bangers and mash aficionados.

Sony Pictures Classics expanded “Magic in the Moonlight” from 170 to 964 screens, picking up $1.9 million in the process. The Woody Allen confection has now made $4.7 million after four weeks in theaters. IFC’s “Boyhood” keeps chugging along. The 12 years in the making indie picked up $2.1 million, bringing its total after six weeks to $13.8 million.

The overall box office was relatively flat with the same weekend a year ago, when “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” debuted and became a surprise hit.

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