Bourne Beats Batman, Ferrell Outpolls Streep

Taking Matt Damon's role of the spy on the run, Jeremy Renner defeats candidate Will Ferrell and sexagenarian hottie Meryl Streep

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Universal

The spy-movie genre has found another asset. With Aaron Cross, the hunted, haunted agent played by Jeremy Renner, replacing Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne and dragging reluctant scientist Rachel Weisz along with him, The Bourne Legacy won the weekend at the North American box office. The studio’s preliminary estimate, $40.3 million, was enough to defeat the three-week reigning star, The Dark Knight Rises, which in its first 24 days has approached $400 million at domestic theaters and $800 million worldwide. A fourth weekend tally of $19.5 million landed the Batman finale in third place, sandwiched between the $27.4 million earned by the Will Ferrell/Zach Galifiankis political farce The Campaign and the $15.6 million for Hope Springs, the late-life marital crisis comedy starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, with Steve Carell as their therapist.

Each of the seven stars in this trio of new movies is older than 40, some way over. So, no surprise, all three films appealed to the alter kocker demographic. The Campaign found 64% of its patrons in those 25 or older; 69% of the Legacy crowd was at least 30; and among the overwhelmingly female audience (66%) for Hope Springs, 69% were over 40. Kids mostly took the weekend off to do… whatever kids do in the lazy days of August.

(READ: Mary Pols’ review of Hope Springs)

None of the senior-skewing newbies got a lot of love: The Bourne Legacy and Hope Springs both garnered so-so B marks from the CinemaScore survey of early attendees, while the Ferrell film pulled a dismissive B-minus. Still, The Campaign’s opening had to be heartening to its star, who had not headlined a “major” movie since the 2010 The Other Guys. Scoring his second best leading role in an R-rated comedy, after the 2008 Step Brothers, Ferrell doubtless benefited from the raunch cred of Galifiankis, whose R-rated Hangover films reached a global gross of about $1.15 billion, and whose pairing with Ferrell made an attractive Mutt-and-Jeff duo in the Warner Bros. comedy.

(READ: Mary Pols’ review of The Campaign)

As Warners execs ponder what to do with their Batman franchise now that Christopher Nolan has made his trilogy and called it quits, the Universal moguls must be happily envisioning all manner of Bourne sequels and hybrids. Legacy didn’t get near the $52.5 million of The Bourne Supremacy in 2004, let alone the $69.3 million debut of the 2007 Bourne Ultimatum. But it outgrossed, in inflated and real dollars, the $27.1 million earned by the first Damon-Bourne drama, Identity — no small achievement for a series that replaced both its star (with a lesser-known actor) and its lead character.

“The film’s performance provides the studio with a number of options and directions in which to continue the franchise,” emailed Universal’s Paul Pflug, possibly while emitting the knowing cackle of a CIA overlord. The studio could put Renner in a straightforward sequel (A Bourne Is Re-Starred), turn Cross into a Terminator-style villain (Bourne to Be Bad), clone the new hero and call it Double Cross or, if Damon wants to come back, pair the two actors in yet another franchise: Cross Bourne.

(READ: Corliss’s review of The Bourne Legacy)

Even the foreign indie market is not impervious to sequelitis. Julie Delpy, who had costarred with Ethan Hawke in Richard Linklater’s 1995 Before Sunrise and its 2004 followup Before Sunset, reprised the character she had written for her own 2007 film 2 Days in Paris with the new 2 Days in New York, upgrading her beau from Adam Goldberg to Chris Rock. The movie earned an O.K. $27,000 in two (make that 2) theaters, for a $13,500 per-screen average — a bit off the $17,364 average on 10 screens for 2 Days in Paris five years ago.

(READ: Mary Pols’ review of 2 Days in New York)

In Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, the characters are new but the location is familiar: the borough of Brooklyn, where Lee grew up and has set many of his earlier films, including the 1989 Do the Right Thing. Opening in four theaters in the New York City area, Red Hook Summer took in a warm $42,100; it expands to Los Angeles and other metropolitan venues next weekend.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Red Hook Summer)

And as a reminder that Hollywood makes sequels not just because it’s out of inspiration but mainly because audiences pay to see them, note that this summer’s Ice Age: Continental Drift — fourth in Fox/Blue Sky’s series of inconsequential cartoons — has buttressed its middling $144.1-million domestic take with a blockbuster-size $620.5 million abroad, and in less than five weeks. It has now rung up the third highest foreign gross of any animated feature, behind the third Ice Age ($690.1 million) and Toy Story 3 ($648.2 million). Those are assets that the CIA honchos chasing Bourne and Cross would kill for.

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. The Bourne Legacy, $40.3 million, first weekend

2. The Campaign, $27.4 million, first weekend

3. The Dark Knight Rises, $19.5 million; $390.1 million, fourth week

4. Hope Springs, $15.6 million; $20.1 million, first five days

5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, $8.2 million; $30.6 million, second week

6. Total Recall, $8.1 million; $44.2 million, second week

7. Ice Age: Continental Drift, $6.75 million; $144.1 million, fifth week

8. Ted, $3.3 million; $209.9 million, seventh week

9. Step Up Revolution, $2.85 million; $30.2 million, third week

10. The Amazing Spider-Man, $2.2 million; $255.5 million, sixth week — tied with

10. The Watch, $2.2 million; $31.4 million, third week

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