While it may not have been mind-blowing by would-be blockbuster standards, Inception had a dreamy debut over the weekend, extracting $62.8 million on approximately 7,100 screens at 3,792 locations. Overall weekend business was further buttressed by the continued strength of Despicable Me and other holdovers plus the mediocre launch of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, leading to an 11 percent increase over the same timeframe last year, when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince dominated.
Inception marked another commercial coup for writer-director Christopher Nolan following the record-breaking The Dark Knight, and it delivered the biggest opening of star Leonardo DiCaprio's career, exceeding Shutter Island. The picture occupied the coveted mid-July release slot of distributor Warner Bros.' past blockbusters The Dark Knight and the last two Harry Potter movies. While it didn't reach the heights of those movies, it also wasn't a franchise title with a built-in audience, though the "From the director of The Dark Knight" angle was naturally pushed extensively in its marketing.
Science fiction-themed movies are often in danger of being too esoteric, but Inception's advertising eluded this pitfall with a deliberate campaign that first piqued interest with mysterious but striking scenarios and imagery and, then as the release neared, clearly presented the movie as an epic heist thriller. The result was the second highest-grossing debut ever for a sci-fi movie that wasn't a sequel, remake or adaptation, behind Avatar's $77 million. Inception's initial attendance was also higher than similar titles like The Matrix and Minority Report.
Warner Bros. noted that Inception's audience composition was 56 percent male and 73 percent under 34 years old. The picture's run included a record 197 IMAX venues which accounted for $7.2 million or 11 percent of business.
The weekend's other new high profile movie, The Sorcerer's Apprentice had a comparable release date to the last two Harry Potter movies, replete with Wednesday launch, but none of the magic rubbed off. The fantasy adventure conjured $17.6 million on around 4,800 screens at 3,504 locations over the weekend. With $24.7 million in five days, it has had less than half the attendance than the last two Harry Potter had in their first days, and it marks producer Jerry Bruckheimer's second folly of the summer after Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Coming off as Enchanted for boys, The Sorcerer's Apprentice wasn't hip enough for teens and young adults with its the Mickey Mouse cartoon sourcing nor was it relatable to kids with its older characters. Outside of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it's typically tough to reach blockbuster levels with a fantasy movie, and distributor Walt Disney Pictures' marketing botched Sorcerer's Stone in the same way they botched Prince of Persia: with a murky, cheesy blur of special effects and little else (though they had unappealing material to work with). Disney's exit polling indicated that 54 percent of the audience was male, 56 percent was over 25 years old, and 33 percent was parents and their children.
Last weekend's top draw, Despicable Me, had a decent hold, dipping 42 percent to $32.8 million. That lifted its total to $118.4 million in ten days, leap-frogging past The Last Airbender's $115.1 million 17-day haul in the process. The other second-weekend holdover, Predators, on the other hand, bled 72 percent. The franchise reboot made $7 million. Tallying $40.3 million in ten days, it will at least surpass Aliens Vs. Predator - Requiem.
Though it has descended at a rapid rate, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse has held on just enough to give predecessor The Twilight Saga: New Moon a run for its money, which is an exceptional feat in the realm of closely-timed, serialized sequels. Eclipse fell 58 percent to $13.4 million, bringing its total to $264.8 million in 19 days. New Moon had $257.5 million through day 19 and ultimately grossed $296.6 million.
Toy Story 3 bagged $12 million in its fifth weekend, down 43 percent. With a $363 million haul, it now ranks as the 15th highest-grossing movie of all time (though it has yet to crack the Top 100 in terms of attendance).
Grown Ups became Adam Sandler's highest-grossing movie since Click in 2006. The comedy was off 37 percent to $9.9 million for a $129.2 million tally in 24 days. It's been holding better than fellow fourth-weekend release Knight & Day, which was spun as a long player by its studio after its disappointing opening. The action-comedy tumbled 53 percent to $3.6 million for a $69.1 million haul in 26 days.