SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - It turns out that Rambo is no match for a bunch of silly Spartans.
"Meet the Spartans," a parody of the ancient Greek warriors lionized in the 2007 hit "300," topped the North American weekend box office with $18.7 million, emerging victorious over the return of Sylvester Stallone's signature action hero.
"I think everyone expected 'Rambo' to be No. 1," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers, which compiles box office projections.
"There are definitely a lot of serious films out there now but there was a big enough audience looking to have silly, mindless fun at movie theaters," Dergarabedian said.
Over the same weekend last year, another parody from News Corp.-owned 20th Century Fox, "Epic Movie," led the box office with an almost identical haul as that of "Meet the Spartans."
"Fox has sort of perfected the art of the spoof movie released at this time," Dergarabedian said.
According to estimates for the United States and Canada issued on Sunday, "Rambo," a joint release from Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company, debuted at No. 2 with $18.2 million, while last week's box-office champ, rampaging-monster flick "Cloverfield," fell to No. 4 with a take of $12.7 million.
Paramount's "Cloverfield" was expected to lose some of its punch; a strong word-of-mouth marketing campaign was expected to have motivated many viewers to see it on its opening weekend.
Another new entrant was Sony's cyber-thriller "Untraceable," which opened at No. 5 with $11.2 million.
Critically acclaimed "There Will Be Blood" jumped into the top 10 for the first time, earning the eighth spot with $4.9 million after Paramount Vantage expanded the number of theaters to nearly 900.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a ruthless Texas oilman, "There Will Be Blood" had a low-key debut late last year but has gathered steam after it got eight Oscar nominations.
"These are great results, it's No. 8 in the marketplace with a limited release. We're just seeing a sort of wonderful response across the country," said Rob Schulze of Paramount Vantage.
"Spartans" was one of five films in the top 10 that played for laughs. Romantic comedy "27 Dresses," also from 20th Century Fox, fell one spot to No. 3 with $13.6 million while oops-I'm-pregnant film "Juno" from Fox Searchlight dropped two spots to No. 6 with $10.3 million, putting it over the $100 million mark since its Christmas release.
"The Bucket List," a widely panned comedy from Warner Bros pairing Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as adventure-seeking cancer patients, was No. 7 with $10.2 million while female heist movie "Mad Money" came in at No. 10 with $4.6 million. "Mad Money" was the debut release of Overture Films, a unit of Liberty Media Corp.'s cable TV operator Starz LLC.
Disney's "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" dug up a little more box office gold, with its $4.7 million making it good enough for No. 9. The Nicholas Cage adventure has raked in $205.4 million since its December release.