WINNER OF THE WEEK: Universal. The studio claimed the top two movies, including surprise smash The Purge. The sci-fi thriller about a future when crime is permitted one night per year had been expected to debut on top of the chart and to sell modestly well, anywhere from $18 to $25 million, but no one expected it to earn an estimated $36.4 million. Credit the intriguing premise (which had the social media world buzzing for weeks in advance), the scares-on-a-shoestring ingenuity of producer Jason Blum (one of the masterminds behind the Paranormal Activity franchise and last fall’s horror hit Sinister), and star Ethan Hawke (who also starred in Sinister). Made for an absurdly cheap $3 million, The Purge already looks like the best return-on-investment movie of the year.
In second place, Universal’s Fast & Furious 6 lost a modest 44 percent of last weekend’s business to earn another estimated $19.8 million, for a three-weekend total of $202.9 million. Also holding up well was the Number Three movie, Summit’s magician caper Now You See Me, which saw just 34 percent of last weekend’s sales vanish, for a take this weekend estimated at $19.5 million and a two-week haul of $61.4 million.
In fifth place, 20th Century Fox’s cartoon Epic held on with an estimated $12.1 million, down just 27 percent from last week, for a three-week total of $84.2 million. And in sixth place, Star Trek Into Darkness earned an estimated $11.7 million, off just 30 percent from a week ago, and enough to cross the $200 million mark after 25 days.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. To be fair, their Fox comedy The Internship opened at the high end of expectations, with an estimated $18.2 million. (Pundits had predicted a debut in the mid-teens.) Still, that was good enough for just a fourth-place premiere. It’s a far cry from the $33.9 million debut of the pair’s Wedding Crashers eight years ago (and that was at 2005 ticket prices). It’s certainly better than the $12.8 million opening of Vaughn’s The Watch last year, but it’s clear that neither he nor Wilson is the box office draw he used to be.
‘NOTHING’ DOING: At the art house, Joss Whedon’s home-movie version of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing opened on just five screens but averaged $36,680 on each of them, for an estimated total of $183,400. That’s the highest per-screen average by far of any movie this week. (The Purge averaged $14,353 per venue.) Also opening strong, on four screens, was the documentary Dirty Wars, with $16,500 per screen, for a total estimated at $66,000. And romance Before Midnight, taking advantage of the mini-wave of Ethan Hawkemania, expanded from 31 to 52 screens and saw business rise 45 percent to an estimated $585,000, for a total of $1.5 million in three weeks.