As the only brand-new movie in nationwide release, sci-fi adventure Oblivion easily took first place with $37.05 million. Unfortunately, overall box office was down 19 percent from the same frame last year, and it now appears that April 2013 will wind up about even with April 2012.
Oblivion's $37.05 million start (estimated $5.5 million in IMAX) is the highest non-sequel debut for star Tom Cruise since 2005's War of the Worlds, and it's his fifth-best ever behind that movie and the first three Mission: Impossible outings. It was a bit higher than 2002's Minority Report ($35.7 million), though with ticket price inflation it likely had noticeably lower attendance.
Oblivion's solid (but not spectacular) opening can be attributed at least in part to smart scheduling. Bracing for the Summer box office season, studios typically avoid releasing big-budget fare during the month of April; Universal Pictures, however, successfully stretched the calendar in April 2009 and 2011 with Fast and Furious and Fast Five (both of which opened over $70 million). While Oblivion didn't come anywhere close to matching those movies, it is likely that the less-competitive April landscape helped considerably.
A good date isn't enough, though, if the movie itself doesn't have anything to offer, which wasn't the case with Oblivion. While previews were light on story, they did show off fantastic sci-fi imagery, and showed star Tom Cruise in his action movie wheelhouse. Cruise's image has taken a bit of a hit in the last decade, though he does still remain quite popular, and according to Universal he was the top reason that audiences sought out Oblivion this weekend.
Universal's exit polling also indicated that the audience was 57 percent male and 74 percent were 25 years of age and older. They awarded the movie a weak "B-" CinemaScore, which suggests it's going to have a very tough time holding up against Iron Man 3 in two weeks. Still, it's likely that Oblivion winds up over $100 million at the domestic box office, and with at least twice as much overseas this will be a solid early-year performer.
After setting the opening weekend record for baseball movies last weekend, 42 eased 36 percent to $17.7 million. While that's a very good hold, it's not quite on par with past "A+" CinemaScore recipients like Argo (16 percent) or The Help (23 percent). Still, through 10 days the movie has earned $53.8 million, and could still reach $100 million by the end of its run. The Croods held on to third place with $9.2 million this weekend (a light 30 percent decline). Through five weekends, the DreamWorks Animation hit has grossed $154.6 million.
In fourth place, Scary Movie 5 plummeted 57 percent to $6.15 million. The movie has so far earned a paltry $22.8 million, and it will ultimately fall short of matching Scary Movie 4's $40.2 million opening weekend. G.I. Joe: Retaliation rounded out the Top Five with $5.8 million. With $111.2 million so far, it's on pace to fall way short of its predecessor, but it's going to more than make up the difference overseas. The Place Beyond the Pines tripled its theater count to 1,542 this weekend but was only up 27 percent to $4.9 million. With $11.6 million in the bank, Pines has already out-grossed director Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine ($9.7 million).
While Oblivion was the only new nationwide release, there were a handful of new movies in moderate release this weekend. At 381 theaters, Christian baseball movie Home Run wound up in 12th place with an estimated $1.62 million. At half as many theaters, Lionsgate/Pantelion's Filly Brown was close behind with $1.48 million, while Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem disappointed with $642,000 from 354 locations.
On Friday, the 2012 Academy Award nominees for Best Picture inched past $1 billion combined at the domestic box office. This is the third time that's ever happened—the first two were 2009 and 2010—and is due in large part to six out of the nine movies grossing over $120 million (easily a new record). Overall, the highest-grossing nominee is Lincoln with $182.2 million. However, it was Silver Linings Playbook that pushed the nominees past the $1 billion finish line: since the awards ceremony, Silver Linings has added $23.9 million for an excellent $131 million total. Around-the-World Roundup G.I. Joe: Retaliation took first place at the overseas box office this weekend with an estimated $40 million. Most of that came from China, where the movie opened to an incredible $33 million. That's four times higher than its predecessor's debut, and also higher than that movie's final tally. Retaliation has now earned $211.7 million overseas for a worldwide total of $322.9 million, which is ahead of Rise of Cobra's $302 million total.
After opening a week ahead of the U.S. in most foreign markets, this weekend's domestic champion Oblivion added $33.7 million from 60 territories for an early total of $112 million. Its top market so far is Russia with $14.8 million, and it still has debuts in China and Japan coming up in May.
Already a hit overseas, The Croods added another $23.4 million this weekend for a total of $272.3 million. It's now only a few days away from passing How to Train Your Dragon (around $277 million), and it could wind up as high as $350 million by the end of its run.