LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Action movie "Immortals" slayed its competitors at the weekend box office, taking the top spot domestically and pulling in an estimated $68 million around the world.
The 3D movie's performance surpassed expectations and beat new Adam Sandler comedy "Jack and Jill" plus another strong showing for animated film "Puss in Boots," according to studio estimates released on Sunday.
"Immortals" ruled the domestic charts with $32 million in sales at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters, plus an estimated $36 million from international markets.
The film attracted its core target audience of young men to watch the story of clashes between ancient Greek warriors played by Henry Cavill and Mickey Rourke. Seventy-five percent of moviegoers were under age 35, and 60 percent of the audience were male. Other films aimed at that type of audience had struggled in recent weeks.
"People were concerned action fans were staying away from the cinema. They definitely came out in force for 'Immortals,'" said Kyle Davies, president of worldwide theatrical distribution for Relativity Media, the independent studio that released the film.
"Immortals," produced at a cost of $75 million, is the most expensive film to date produced and distributed by Relativity. The studio had projected opening-weekend domestic sales around $25 million.
Audiences gave "Immortals" a B rating on average, according to exit-polling firm CinemaScore. Critics were split on the film, which earned only a 38 percent positive ranking on review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes.
With worse reviews, "Jack and Jill" reached the high end of studio expectations by ringing up an estimated $26.0 million domestically that earned second place for the weekend. Critics panned the movie, with just a 3 percent positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Still, Sandler's comic appeal helped bring families to the film about a sister's Thanksgiving holiday visit, said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Columbia Pictures, the studio that released the film.
"Jack and Jill," which cost about $80 million to produce, added $2.7 million from theaters in Mexico and Colombia.
Close behind in third place was another strong performance for "Puss in Boots," the box-office champ the past two weekends. The 3D animated spinoff from the blockbuster "Shrek" series brought in $25.5 million, dropping just 23 percent from a week ago. The film's worldwide total now stands at $156.9 million since its debut.
Action-comedy "Tower Heist," starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, finished its second weekend in theaters in fourth place. The movie about a plot to recoup losses from a Wall Street swindler generated $13.2 million at domestic theaters plus $7.6 million from overseas markets.
"J. Edgar," a new drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the late FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and directed by Clint Eastwood, finished in fifth place with $11.5 million from Friday through Sunday. The studio had forecast $10 million to $13 million for the weekend.
Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., said the studio was pleased with the opening. He said the film was "well-positioned to take advantage of the holiday season" as an alternative to a string of family films coming to theaters. "J. Edgar" brought in an older audience, with 94 percent over age 25.
The film opened in about 1,900 theaters, fewer than the more than 3,000 for the weekend's other widely released films.
Privately held Relativity Media released "Immortals." "Jack and Jill" was distributed by Sony unit Columbia Pictures. "Puss in Boots" was produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom. Time Warner unit Warner Bros. released "J. Edgar," and Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp distributed "Tower Heist."
Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Eric Beech