The dog beat the Mustang. In its second frame, Mr. Peabody & Sherman outraced the race-car newcomer Need for Speed to win the weekend at North American theaters. The DreamWorks animated feature about a brilliant beagle and his pet boy earned $21.2 million, according to preliminary studio estimates.
Benefitting from the beginning of spring break, which has sprung nearly 20% of kids from school, Peabody fell just 34% from last weekend. Including $85 million from foreign markets, the movie's 10-day total is just under $150 million. Peabody's holding power underlines the current box-office magic of animated features, which have won four of the past six weekends—three of them snagged by The LEGO Movie, now at $236.9 million. Another cartoon fantasy, Disney's Frozen, remained in the top 10 for its 16th consecutive week and has amassed $1.026 billion worldwide.
(READ: Our review of Mr. Peabody & Sherman)
The weekend favorite in the judgment of most movie touts, Need for Speed opened fairly well, with $1.1 million on Thursday night and another $5.5 million Friday. But like a flashy NASCAR speedster experiencing engine trouble in the middle of the big race, Speed sputtered a bit and finished at $17.8 million, behind both Peabody and last weekend's champ, 300: Rise of an Empire, at $19.1 million.
Need for Speed is based on the 1994 Electronic Arts video game, which has sold about $4 billion worth of units. In the movie version, Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad) plays a car jockey—a kind of nerd for speed—who drives his retooled Ford Mustang cross-country with the auto motive of revenge against a guy who stole his girl and killed his best friend. Budgeted at $66 million, Speed was intended to launch a franchise in the spirit of Fast & Furious. Instead, it duplicated the soft results of other movies inspired by video games: Doom, Max Payne, Hitman. To Deadline Hollywood's Anita Busch wrote, this proved "that gamers are hermits and aren’t bringing friends (do they have any that aren’t digitally created in chat boxes?)."
More than half of those who did forsake their consoles in their parents' basement for the communal warmth of the multiplex were between the ages of 18 and 34. In years past, a majority of young adults usually translated into a hit movie. These days, though, that group has ceded power to the kids and their parents who have turned so many animated features into blockbusters.
Ninety percent of the theaters playing the DreamWorks live-action film showed it in 3-D, but only 43% of customers bothered to pay the surcharge. The audience, which gave the movie a B-plus rating as polled by CinemaScore, had a curious demographic breakdown: 70% were male, standard for a macho action film, but 66% were identified as "couples"—which implies that at least 4% of the date-night duos were gay men. Who knew so many of them were car buffs?
Speed did much better abroad, where it earned $45.6 million. In fact, the picture registered a higher gross over the weekend in China, $21.1 million, than it did in North America. The second-biggest foreign take, $5.5 million, was in Russia, and the fourth-highest, $1.9 million, in Malaysia, where the locals could use some diversion from the news of a lost airplane to enjoy a movie about car crashes.
(SEE: The Need for Speed trailer)
The other new wide release, Tyler Perry's The Good Moms Club, stumbled to an $8.3 weekend—the lowest opening for any of the 15 movies written by the multitasking mogul. Not screened for critics, the drama received an indulgent A-minus CinemaScore rating from an audience that fit Perry's demographic: 79% female, 80% 25 or older and predominantly African-American.
Veronica Mars, the big-screen version of the TV cult favorite, raised its $5.7-million budget from more than 91,000 angels on Kickstarter. The opening weekend take of about $2 million, divided by an average ticket price of $10, suggests that each investor took a friend, and nobody else went. Or maybe the movie's backers watched it on VOD, where it also opened; no numbers from On Demand are available.
(READ: A review by Veronica Mars investor Megan Gibson)
Veronica Mars was playing in 291 theaters, giving it a $7,000 per-screen average. In just 66 venues, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel earned $3.5 million, for a sensational $55,000 PSA. We grant that impressive grosses in limited engagements don't predict a movie's wider success, but Budapest has a shot at matching the domestic gross of Anderson's biggest recent hit, Moonrise Kingdom ($45.5 million) and possibly even of The Royal Tenenbaums ($52.4 million in 2001, which would be $75.4 million in today's dollars). Fingers crossed for the year's finest new movie.
(READ: Corliss's mash note to The Grand Budapest Hotel)
In art-house openings, Bad Words, the malicious little comedy directed by and starring Justin Bateman, managed $120,000 on six screens, while Enemy, a mystery thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a history teacher who meets his exact double, cadged $18,000 in one theater. Or could it be... two theaters?
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Mr. Peabody & Sherman, $21.2 million; $63.2 million, second week
2. 300: Rise of an Empire, $19.1 million; $78.3 million, second week
3. Need for Speed, $17.8 million, first weekend
4. Non-Stop, $10.6 million; $68.8 million, third week
5. Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club, $8.3 million, first weekend
6. The LEGO Movie, $7.7 million; $236.9 million, sixth week
7. Son of God, $5.4 million; $50.9 million, third week
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel, $3.6 million; $4.8 million, second week
9. Frozen, $2.1 million; $396.4 million, 17th week
10. Veronica Mars, $2 million, first weekend