WINNERS OF THE WEEK: Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. Want to know why Aniston keeps getting to make movies? The estimated $26.6 million opening weekend for We're the Millers offers a clue. It debuted in second place among four new nationwide releases, but it's the only one that outperformed expectations. As Aniston and Sudeikis learned two years ago with Horrible Bosses, raunchy, R-rated comedies often do well in the summer. This one did pretty darn good, considering that another R-rated comedy, 2 Guns, opened just last week and is still in the top five (it finished fifth, with an estimated $11.1 million). Plus, Millers was made for the bargain price of $37 million, so its five-day total (it opened Wednesday) of $38.0 million is a good sign. Sudeikis' decision to leave Saturday Night Live after 10 seasons to seek his fortune in Hollywood is looking like the right call.
The weekend's top movie, Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi political allegory Elysium, debuted in first place with an estimated $30.4 million. That's at the low end of expectations. Indeed, It's well below the $37.4 million debut of Blomkamp's previous sci-fi political allegory, August 2009's District 9, released when the South African director was an unknown quantity and without such box office draws as Elysium's Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Also, this time Blomkamp has to worry about making back a nine-figure budget, though as with this summer's other original sci-fi movies (After Earth, Pacific Rim), overseas audiences will probably come to the rescue; already the movie has earned an estimated $10.9 million abroad.
Also in the winner's column: Disney's Planes, which debuted in third place with an estimated $22.5 million. The movie is a spinoff of Pixar's popular Cars franchise, though Pixar had nothing to do with this modest-budget ($50 million) knockoff, which was originally meant to go straight to DVD. Still, audiences really enjoyed it (judging by the A- grade from CinemaScore), and it can boast the largest August debut for an animated film ever.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: The Percy Jackson franchise. Well, in a four-way race, someone's gotta come in fourth. In this case, it's the teenage fantasy franchise that hoped to be the next Harry Potter, though the first Percy Jackson movie stalled out at $88.8 million in North America. But overseas grosses lifted Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief to a global total of $226.5 million, which is why we're getting a sequel, albeit three and a half years later, when Lightning Thief's audiences may have outgrown the characters. At least that movie bowed with $31.2 million; the new Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters could muster up just an estimated $14.6 million from Friday to Sunday, good for fourth place, and a total of $23.5 million since its release on Wednesday. Again, foreign grosses ($9.8 million so far) could save the movie, but it's still going to be an uphill climb toward recouping the movie's $90 million budget and getting a third installment greenlit.
ORAL REPORT: Poor Linda Lovelace, screwed again. Lovelace, the biopic of the Deep Throat star's tragic life, opened on 118 art-house screens but earned just an estimated $184,000, for a paltry per-screen average of $1,559. This may have been one of the few times that opening a movie on video-on-demand the same day as in theaters actually hurt the theatrical release instead of enhancing it; after all, given the subject matter, Lovelace is probably a movie you'd rather see in the privacy of your living room than in a public theater.
By contrast, Lake Bell's comedy In a World (which she wrote, directed, produced, and stars in) opened on just three screens but averaged an estimated $23,667 per screen. Drag racing drama Snake and Mongoose opened on just one screen but earned an estimated $21,000. Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine averaged an estimated $21,205 on 119 screens, and it's in its third week of release. (It's earned $6.2 million so far.) And Shailene Woodley's coming-of-age romance The Spectacular Now averaged a still-spectacular $14,006 on 19 screens, bringing its two-week total to $534,000.