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‘Real Steel’ shows B.O. mettle

Disney pic KOs weekend competish with $49.4 mil globally

DreamWorks’ robo-“Rocky” pic “Real Steel” body-punched its way to the top the global box office with an estimated $49.4 million, of which $22.1 million came from 19 overseas territories, including No. 1 showings in Australia, Mexico and Russia.

The film, distribbed worldwide by Disney, took in $27.3 million domestically, more than enough to win the weekend, beating Sony’s George Clooney political thriller “The Ides of March,” which bowed to $10.4 million through Sunday.

The debut pics helped push both Disney and Sony past the $1 billion mark in year-to-date domestictotals. Paramount and Warner Bros., respectively, were first to hit that milestone earlier this summer.

In a global market lately dominated by holdovers, “Real Steel” marks the first opener to nab Stateside bragging rights since “The Lion King” bowed at No. 1 on Sept. 16.

More notably, the DreamWorks pic managed to unseat Sony’s eight-week overseas B.O. champ, “The Smurfs,” which grossed an estimated $7.3 million this weekend for a whopping $393.4 million cume outside the U.S. Universal’s “Johnny English Reborn” also came close to winning, with an estimated weekend take of $21.3 million; overseas cume is $61.3 million.

The B.O.’s No. 3 domestic title, Warner Bros.’ “Dolphin Tale,” saw the weekend’s best hold, down only 34% in its third frame for an estimated weekend gross of $9.2 million. Cume is $49.1 million.

Sony’s Brad Pitt starrer “Moneyball” followed, with a projected $7.5 million, bringing the film’s domestic tally to $49.3 million. Both “Moneyball” and “Dolphin Tale” have been playing nicely to their core adult and family audiences, respectively.

Overall, the weekend saw a slight bump over the same sesh last year — up a reported 3%.

In limited release, IFC’s “Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence” sold out Friday and Saturday midnight screenings in New York and L.A., with 16 additional locations playing the pic during latenight-only showtimes. The film averaged $3,000 per screen, with a total weekend gross estimated at $54,000.

Emilio Estevez’s “The Way,” from Producers Distribution Agency, also bowed limited for a per-screen average of $4,012 from 33 engagements. Pic earned an estimated total of $132,411.

Increased B.O. traffic among families likely boosted weekend prospects for “Real Steel,” with added opening power from fanboys. In fact, Imax reported a “Real Steel” take of $3.2 million, which reps 12% of the film’s total domestic bow.

Globally, “Real Steel” grossed $4.4 million from Imax, or roughly 9% of the pic’s worldwide gross.

Russia contributed 31% of the pic’s entire international debut, with an estimated $6.9 million, followed by Australia, where the film opened to $5.3 million (24% of the total), and Mexico contributing $2.9 million (13%).

The question now for “Real Steel” is whether it will have enough legs in the coming weeks to become profitable. After disappointing B.O. returns for “Cowboys and Aliens” and “Fright Night,” DreamWorks has a lot riding on “Real Steel” (though “The Help,” with a current domestic cume of $162.7 million, provided a nice cushion for the company).

And while “Real Steel” is not terribly expensive — budgeted at around $110 million after tax rebates, according to Disney — the film was marketed as a sizable early-fall tentpole. Dave Hollis, exec VP of theatrical exhibition sales and distribution at Disney, said he is confident the film will play.

“Competitively, I think we’re going to be an option for everybody in the weeks to come,” Hollis said.

“Real Steel” scored an A CinemaScore rating (under-25 auds gave it an A+). The film played mostly to males under 35, as expected, though Hollis said it still drew a fair number of moviegoers outside that sector.

By comparison, Sony’s “Ides” earned the majority of its opening from over-35 filmgoers (60%), with women making up 58% of the total.

The film is far less of a gamble financially than “Real Steel,” costing approximately $12 million and was co-financed by Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media Group. Sony acquired U.S. rights to the film last November.

As expected, “Ides” played best on the coasts but also saw solid perfs from markets including Cincinnati and Houston, both of which had locations that were among the film’s top 20 engagements.

Sony compared the opening of “Ides” to that of Warners’ Clooney thriller “Michael Clayton,” which earned $10.4 million during its first weekend in wide release in 2007. The latter pic wound up cuming nearly $50 million domestically — a multiple that Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer eyes for “Ides.” “It’s a film with such an incredible cast telling a compelling story,” Bruer said. The opening “absolutely puts it in a good position,” he added.

“Ides” earned a B CinemaScore rating among auds under 25 (but that may not make much of a difference since it played mostly to adults).

Other than “Real Steel” and “Johnny English,” several pics did robust biz internationally.

Fox’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” launched in Japan, where the pic scored almost 80% of its total weekend take. The Japanese B.O. contributed $6.2 million to “Apes,” which grossed $7.8 million this weekend for an overseas cume of $245.4 million. Fox said it expects “Apes” to generate strong results in Japan through Monday, a public holiday in that country.

U expanded “Johnny English” into 10 additional markets, including a Rowan Atkinson’s best-ever opening in the U.K. at $7.8 million. The studio points to Blighty’s local school holidays starting in two weeks as a potential boon time for the pic.

Elsewhere in Europe, “Johnny English” bowed at No. 1 in Germany and German-speaking countries, with the former territory contributing $3.9 million.

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