Two directors with little in common but their first and last names — English fantasy-genre veteran Paul W.S. Anderson, 47, and U.S. art-house auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, 42 — dominated the North American box office this weekend. P.W.S.A.’s Resident Evil: Retribution, fifth in the videogame-spawned series about a lone woman (Mila Jovovich) battling a worldwide zombie uprising, premiered in 3,012 theaters and finished first with $21.1 million, according to preliminary studio estimates.
In a very limited opening — five theaters — P.T.A.’s The Master, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic secular preacher and Joaquin Phoenix as his wayward disciple, scored an amazing $730,000. Its $146,000 per-screen average was the highest of the year, beating the $130,749 PSA of Moonrise Kingdom in four theaters Memorial Day weekend. The Master, which may not deliver on its early buzz as an exposé of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, nonetheless lured fans of the director’s Oscar-nominated There Will Be Blood. Suddenly, the domestic box office was one big Andersonville.
(READ: Jessica Winter on her interview with The Master’s Joaquin Phoenix)
The second spot in the top 10 was taken by Disney-Pixar’s 3-D rerelease of the 2003 hit Finding Nemo, which grossed $17.5 million over the weekend to add to the movie’s original $868-million worldwide haul (which would be well over $1 billion at today’s ticket prices). There’s nothing shameful about the runner-up spot for an underwater animated feature that everyone and his kids have seen dozens of times, but the Nemo revenue pales before the $30.2-million first-weekend take of The Lion King reissue this time last year, on its way to a $94.2-million domestic rerelease tally. The Nemo numbers are closer to that of another Disney classic converted to 3D, Beauty and the Beast, which amassed $17.8 million in its Jan. 2012 debut and $47.6 million for its entire rerelease run. And the next Disney-Pixar cartoon to be de-mothballed? We wish it were The Little Mermaid, based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen, but unfortunately for this week’s theme it’s Ratatouille.
(LIST: See where Finding Nemo placed among the all-TIME top 25 Animated Features)
Plenty of folks paid the tinted-glasses surcharge this weekend, not just for Finding Nemo but also for Resident Evil: Retribution, which toted up 48% of its business in 3-D theaters. The four sequels in the series, based on Shinji Mikami’s 1996 PlayStation video game, have all enjoyed domestic openings in the $20 millions. But the real money comes from abroad: Retribution has already taken in $50 million in foreign climes, including $10.3 million in Japan, for the year’s top opening of a Hollywood film. The first four films earned $202 million in North America, $474 million off-shore. The latest entry should push the worldwide total toward $900 million — which is still less than the billion or so dollars earned by the video games.
(READ: Corliss on Resident Evil’s Zombie Jamboree)
Retribution’s ad line — “Evil Goes Global” — might also apply to the campaign for 2016 Obama’s America, the anti-Barack doc proposing that the President inherited an anticolonial, anti-American bias from his Kenya-born father. In its 10th weekend, and fourth in wide release, Dinesh D’Souza’s screed fell out of the top 10 but crossed the $30-million mark. It is now the second highest-grossing political documentary of all time (in inflated dollars, not in ticket sales), far behind the $119 million for Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 9/11 i. 2016′s Colorado distributor, Rocky Mountain Pictures, also released Last Ounce of Courage, about a good Christian man’s two-pronged crusade to defend a boy’s right to take a Bible to high school and to allow Christmas trees on public property. Despite a guest appearance by Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, Ounce flounced to a meek $1.7 million in 1,407 theaters, finishing in 15th place, two behind Obama’s America.
(READ: Corliss’s review of 2016 Obama’s America)
Neither of the Rocky Mountain releases, on a combined 3,183 screens, earned as much as the $2.1 million that Arbitrage, with 63-year-old Richard Gere playing a ruthless one-percenter, earned at just 197 theaters. Liberal Arts, Josh Radnor’s mating ritual between a 35-year-old college administrator (Radnor) and a 19-year-old student (Elizabeth Olsen), opened to a conservative $30,000 on four screens. Among indie holdovers, Sleepwalk With Me crossed into seven figures ($1,334,000) in its fourth week, while Robot & Frank got to $2.6 million in its fifth.
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Resident Evil: Retribution, $21.1 million, first weekend
2. Finding Nemo, $17.5 million, first weekend of rerelease
3. The Possession, $5.8 million; $41.2 million, third week
4. Lawless, $4.2 million; $30.1 million, third week
5. ParaNorman, $3.04 million; $49.3 million, fifth week
6. The Expendables 2, $3.03 million; $80.3 million, fifth week
7. The Words, $2.9 million; $9.2 million, second week
8. The Bourne Legacy, $2.9 million; $107.8 million, sixth week
9. The Odd Life of Timothy Green, $2.5 million; $46.3 million, fifth week
10. The Campaign, $2.4 million; $82.9 million, sixth week