LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” the fourth film in a zombie franchise starring Milla Jovovich, topped the worldwide box office during its first weekend, but could not prevent overall sales in North America from hitting their lowest level in two years.
The videogame-derived film earned $73.2 million, of which $27.7 million came from the United States and Canada where it was the only major new release, distributor Screen Gems said Sunday.
Even with earnings boosted by premium pricing for 3D engagements, the gross handily beat forecasts and the openings for the previous films in the series.
Internationally, “Afterlife” earned $45.5 million from 29 markets, opening at No. 1 in most of them, including Japan ($15.5 million), Russia ($9.5 million), Spain ($3.4 million) and Britain ($2.9 million).
The previous film, “Resident Evil: Extinction,” opened to $23.7 million in North America, and $17.4 million in those same 29 markets two years ago. It ended up with $146 million worldwide.
Screen Gems, the mid-budget arm of Sony Corp, collaborated on development and production with German producer Constantin Film. The new one cost Sony about $52 million. It was written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, Jovovich’s husband, who originated the franchise in 2002.
In North America, “Afterlife” earned more than the combined total of the next six films as overall sales slumped in the weekend following the Labor Day holiday, the traditional end of the lucrative summer moviegoing season.
Sales for the top 12 films totaled about $68 million, according to the box office analysis division of Hollywood.com. This ranks as the lowest total since the September 5-7 weekend of 2008, when the top 12 pulled in just $50 million.
Screen Gems also claimed the No. 2 movie in North America as the heist thriller “Takers” earned $6.1 million, rising one place; its total stands at $48.1 million after three weekends.
Last weekend’s top film, Focus Features’ George Clooney assassin drama “The American,” dropped to No. 3 with $5.9 million, for a 12-day haul of $28.3 million.
Rounding out the top five were the violent exploitation homage “Machete” with $4.2 million, and Drew Barrymore’s latest romantic comedy bomb “Going the Distance” with $3.8 million. Their respective 10-day totals rose to $20.8 million and $14 million.
Focus Features is a unit of General Electric Co’s NBC Universal. “Machete” was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp. “Going the Distance” was released by Warner Bros. Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Mohammad Zargham