LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Woody Harrelson scored the biggest opening of his career at the North American box office, as “Zombieland” stormed theaters with weekend ticket sales of $25 million, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.
The comedy ended the two-week reign of children’s comedy “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” which slipped to No. 2 with $16.7 million. Both films were released by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.
Four other new releases entered the top-10. A 3-D reissue of the Pixar cartoons, “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2,” opened at No. 3 with $12.5 million. The release was designed to stoke anticipation of the June 2010 arrival of “Toy Story 3.”
British comedian Ricky Gervais’ “The Invention of Lying” followed with a modest $7.4 million, slightly ahead of Bruce Willis’ “Surrogates,” which is in its second weekend. Rankings could change when final data are released on Monday.
Two entries tied at No. 7: Drew Barrymore’s directing debut, “Whip It,” and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” each reported about $4.9 million in ticket sales.
“Capitalism” played in about one-half as many theaters as “Whip It,” which had been expected to open in the high-single-digit millions ahead of the Gervais comedy.
“Zombieland,” bolstered by strong reviews and advance buzz, matched its modest production budget.
Harrelson, who rose to fame in the sitcom “Cheers,” stars as a gung-ho zombie killer who joins an obsessive-compulsive nerd, played by Jesse Eisenberg, during a worldwide zombie epidemic. It marks the debut of director Ruben Fleischer.
“It’s an action-driven road-trip buddy comedy, and the icing on the cake is that it’s got zombies in it,” said Rory Bruer, Columbia’s president of worldwide distribution.
Harrelson has kept a low profile at the box office in recent years, living in Hawaii with his wife and daughters and advocating for the legalization of marijuana. His best opening until now was the $18 million debut of “Indecent Proposal” in 1993.
“Toy Story/Toy Story 2” was released by Walt Disney Pictures, a unit of Walt Disney Co. “The Invention of Lying” was released by Warner Bros Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc.
“Capitalism: A Love Story” was released by Overture Films, a unit of Liberty Media Corp. “Whip It” was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.
Editing by Paul Simao