Weekend Report: 'Ender' Wins Box Office 'Game,' 'Thor' Mighty Overseas
Ender's Game led the domestic box office this weekend, while Last Vegas narrowly beat animated disappointment Free Birds. Overall, the Top 12 earned $118.3 million, which is off five percent from last year.

The big story this weekend, though, is the strong overseas debut for Thor: The Dark World. A week ahead of its U.S. release, the Avengers follow-up earned $109.4 million from 36 markets. Territory specific details, along with a long-term projection, can be found in the Around-the-World Roundup at the bottom of this report.

At 3,407 theaters, Ender's Game took first place with a decent $27 million. While that pales in comparison to the likes of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight, it is a bit of an improvement over past young-adult adaptations like The Golden Compass ($25.8 million) and Eragon ($23.2 million). It is worth noting, though, that adjusting for ticket price inflation those two titles had slightly higher initial attendance.

Ender's Game also opened on the low end for big-budget sci-fi in 2013. It was way off from Pacific Rim and Oblivion (both over $37 million), and was about on par with After Earth ($27.5 million).

Overall, this isn't a terrible start, though it's not a particularly good one either. Marketing emphasized Harrison Ford's gruff military commander while failing to show what it is about Ender that makes him worth rooting for. This kept the movie from really connecting with those who aren't familiar with the source material, which is the key to success in the adaptation game. According to distributor Lionsgate/Summit, the movie's audience was 58 percent male and 54 percent over the age of 25.

Ender's Game could ultimately find success if it has strong holds and plays well overseas. Unfortunately, it opened to a weak $1.9 million in the U.K. last weekend, and audiences here only gave the movie a so-so "B+" CinemaScore. Also, it faces brutal direct competition from Thor: The Dark World next weekend, and it's tough to imagine it's still drawing much of an audience when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in a few weeks.

After opening in first place last weekend, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa held surprisingly well in its second outing. The movie only dropped 38 percent—easily the best hold in the Jackass franchise—to $20 million. Through 10 days, Bad Grandpa has earned $61.6 million, and it will pass Jackass: Number Two ($72.8 million) in less than a week.

At 3,065 theaters, Last Vegas took third place with $16.3 million. That's the second-highest start ever for CBS Films behind 2012 horror movie The Woman in Black ($20.9 million). It's also slightly above Hope Springs ($14.7 million), which is the comparable title CBS has been using. Still, it's only a bit better than Robert De Niro's The Family ($14 million), and is also way off from Morgan Freeman's other movies this year (all of which opened above $29 million).

As expected, the movie's audience skewed older (83 percent over 25). Interestingly, its audience was also 53 percent female. Combine that data with a solid "A-" CinemaScore, and it's likely that Last Vegas holds well in the long run. A total north of $50 million is a likely outcome at this point.

Free Birds, the first animated movie from effects company Reel FX and from distributor Relativity Media, opened in fourth place with an estimated $15.8 million. That's lower than Flushed Away ($18.8 million), which opened on the same date seven years ago, didn't have 3D, and was considered a major disappointment. It's also off from similarly-themed Chicken Run, which took in $17.5 million over 13 years ago.

Free Birds is the latest example of why a scheduling advantage doesn't guarantee box office glory. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is basically played out, which means that Free Birds was the only major choice for family audiences this weekend. Unfortunately, the marketing dropped the ball by highlighting generic animated antics as opposed to showcasing the movie's interesting, unique story (turkeys travel back in time to end Thanksgiving!).

The audience skewed female (54 percent) and, strangely, older (57 percent over 25). As usual with animated movies, this should hold well over the next few weeks, though it's hard to imagine it makes it much higher than $60 million or so.

In fifth place, Gravity fell 36 percent—its steepest drop yet—to $12.8 million. To date, it has earned an excellent $218.9 million. It remains on pace for at least $250 million by the end of its run.

Captain Phillips had its best hold yet; the Tom Hanks thriller eased 28 percent to $8.4 million in its fourth weekend. The movie has now earned $82.5 million, and will absolutely finish with over $100 million.

12 Years a Slave expanded to 410 locations this weekend and earned $4.8 million. The acclaimed slavery drama is set to expand nationwide next weekend in to around 1,000 theaters.

At 175 locations, time travel romance About Time disappointed with just $1.08 million. It's supposed to expand nationwide next weekend, though it looks unlikely to make much of an impact.

Dallas Buyers Club opened in nine theaters and earned a solid $260,865. That translates to an average of $28,985. With a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and plenty of awards buzz for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, look for Focus Features to aggressively expand this movie over the next month.

Around-the-World Roundup

A week ahead of its U.S. debut, Thor: The Dark World opened to $109.4 million from 36 foreign markets this weekend. That represents 70 percent of the international marketplace, and doesn't include major territories China, Japan, and Italy.

Thor 2's biggest markets were the U.K. ($13.4 million), France ($9.4 million), Mexico ($8.2 million), Brazil ($8.1 million), Germany ($7.9 million), Russia ($7.8 million), South Korea ($7.6 million) and Australia ($6.9 million). Across those eight markets, Thor 2 was up on average around 27 percent from the first Thor. This was also a little over half as much as Iron Man 3, which is the first of the Avengers follow-ups. This data suggests that Thor: The Dark World isn't going to be able to make it to $500 million overseas.

Without any major new openers, Gravity fell 28 percent to an estimated $27.1 million. A large portion of that came in France, where the movie eased just 12 percent to $10.6 million. To date, it has earned $207.5 million overseas, and its worldwide total has reached $426 million. Gravity opens in the U.K. next weekend, followed by China later this month and Japan in December; it's a foregone conclusion that these markets will help push the movie past $600 million.

DreamWorks Animation's Turbo added $12.3 million at 21 markets for a new total of $184.8 million; it's now guaranteed to close higher than Rise of the Guardians ($204 million), though that's not saying much.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 earned $11.5 million overseas this weekend, and has now grossed $70.3 million. Captain Phillips added $10 million for an early total of $43.4 million. Over a year after its U.S. debut, Hotel Transylvania opened to a decent $5.7 million in China. This pushed the animated movie's overseas total to $205.7 million.

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'Ender,' 'Birds,' 'Vegas' All Target Solid Debuts

This Weekend in Past Years:

• 2012 - 'Ralph' Wrecks It, 'Flight' Cruises

• 2011 - 'Puss' Fends Off Stiller, Murphy, Stoners

• 2010 - 'Megamind' Devises Brawny Start, 'Due Date' Pays Off

• 2009 - Moviegoers Stingy with Scrooge

• 2008 - 'Madagascar' Teems with Box Office Life

• 2007 - 'American Gangster' No. 1 with a Bullet

• 2006 - 'Borat' Bombards the Top Spot

• 2005 - Welcome to the Cluck: 'Chicken Little,' 'Jarhead' Top Weekend

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