"Super 8" defies skeptics with big box office debut

Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:43pm EDT
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - To Hollywood's great surprise, moviegoers will show up en masse for the rare summer film that features real actors, an original story and some genuine thrills.

The new sci-fi mystery "Super 8" easily claimed the top spot at the weekend box office in North America after selling about $38 million worth of tickets, despite concerns about a marketing campaign that kept some key elements under wraps.

Its distributor, Paramount Pictures, said on Sunday the tally includes a $1 million contribution from a limited number of sneak-peak previews on Thursday, a day before the film opened in wide release across the United States and Canada.

Industry pundits had forecast a three-day opening in the $25 million to $30 million range, while some movie theater executives had worried it might struggle to hit $20 million.

In a summer of familiar sequels and superheroes, "Super 8" is the first original, live-action non-sequel to take the No. 1 slot in almost three months. The thriller "Limitless" led the field during the weekend of March 18-20.

Last weekend's champion, "X-Men: First Class," the fifth entry in the Marvel comic book series, slipped to No. 2 with $25.0 million. It was followed by "The Hangover, Part II" with $18.5 million in its third weekend. The "X-Men" sequel remained the top choice overseas with sales of $42.2 million.

The only other big new film in North America bombed. The kids movie "Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer" opened at No. 7 with just $6.3 million, coming in at the low end of expectations in the $6 million to $10 million range.

MISSING ALIEN

The advance buzz for "Super 8" was hardly deafening, even with the A-list imprimatur of J.J. Abrams as writer/director and Steven Spielberg as a producer. Abrams convinced skeptical Paramount executives to run a campaign that retained a sense of old-fashioned mystery, earning scorn from industry pundits as surveys showed little enthusiasm among prospective moviegoers.   Continued...