The Scottish princess ran wild through the multiplexes, as Brave, Pixar’s first feature with a female protagonist, opened to a burr-ly $66.8 million to win the weekend at North American theaters, according to preliminary studio estimates. The CGI arm of Disney has released 13 features, and each has opened at No. 1. Indeed, except for Ratatouille, which had a hard-to-pronounce title and a plot about a French rat getting into food, every Pixar movie this millennium — Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, WALL•E, Up, Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 — has opened to at least $60 million. Earning a top “A” rating from the CinemaScore poll of early attendees, Brave attracted families (66%), females (57%) and kids (55% under the age of 25).
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the fanciful bio-pic based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s genre-mashup best-seller, earned just $16.5 million — fully $50 million less than Brave. Considering its R rating, severe dearth of star power and mostly unfavorable reviews, it would have been a shock if this $70-million production from Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and producer Tim Burton had attracted a sizable crowd. With a lethal C-plus CinemaScore, ALVH lured an undersized constituency that tilted male (56%) and older (53% above 25). Besides, audiences are pickier this summer season: no weekend but one — when Madagascar 3 and Prometheus opened to more than $50 million each — has welcomed more than one hit. And the ones they don’t like, they stay away from in droves.
Another example: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, an apocalyptic romance with Steve Carell as the seeker and Keira Knightley the prospective friend. Hoping to corral Carell’s fans from The Office and his five-year string of fairly popular comedies, Focus Features opened the film in 1,625 venues; but the intended audience detected the dark, indie vibe and mounted a boycott of indifference. Those who did go (56% female, 56% over 35) wished they hadn’t: Seeking, like Abe Link, pulled a C-plus. The movie’s minor upside: it cost only $10 million to produce, so the lingering financial effect will be more like a disappointing meal and less like stomach poisoning.
(READ: Mary Pols’ review of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World)
In indie openings, Woody Allen‘s From Rome With Love enjoyed a bellissima premiere: $379,000 at just five theaters, for a per-screen average of better than $75,000. (Last year, Allen’s Midnight in Paris recorded an even stronger debut: $599,003 in six theaters.) Critical hosannas for The Invisible War, Kirby Dick’s emotionally devastating documentary about U.S. soldiers raped by their colleagues and then denied justice by higher-ups, couldn’t entice many viewers; the film opened to just $17,000 on four screens.
Among holdover indie films, Moonrise Kingdom continued to shine, earning $3.4 million this weekend for an $11.6 million total in its fifth week, while The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with $1.6 million, fell out of the top 10 after six weeks. Add the $38.4 million North American take to Best Exotic’s $82.2 million in the rest of the world and you have a benign old-folks smash.
[MONDAY UPDATE: In final figures released today, Brave and Madagascar 3 each earned about a half-million dollars less than forecast — $66.3 million and $19.7 million, respectively. Snow White and the Huntsman, with $8.1 million, finished fifth, above the $7.6 million tallied by Rock of Ages.]
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Brave, $66.8 million, first weekend
2. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, $20.2 million; $157.6 million, third week
3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, $16.5 million, first weekend
4. Prometheus, $10 million; $108.5 million, third week
5. Rock of Ages, $8 million; $28.8 million, second week
6. Snow White and the Huntsman, $8 million; $137.1 million, fourth week
7. That’s My Boy, $7.9 million; $28.2 million, second week
8. The Avengers, $7 million; $598.3 million, eighth week
9. Men in Black 3, $5.6 million; $163.3 million; fifth week
10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, $3.8 million, first weekend