Weekend Report: 'Monsters' and Zombies Both Win On Busy Weekend
Coming off Man of Steel's record-breaking opening last weekend, it seemed unlikely that both Monsters University and World War Z would score strong debuts this weekend. Ultimately, that assumption proved very wrong: Monsters University had one of Pixar's highest openings ever, while World War Z crushed even the most generous expectations. The loser here was Man of Steel, which took an abnormally large drop against this tough competition.

Overall, the Top 12 earned $232.4 million, which makes this the eighth-highest-grossing weekend ever at the domestic box office.

Playing at 4,004 locations, Monsters University took the top spot with $82.4 million. That's Pixar's 14th-straight number one debut (a perfect batting average), and it ranks as their second-highest opening ever behind 2010's Toy Story 3 ($110.3 million). However, it did sell slightly fewer tickets than predecessor Monsters, Inc., whose opening weekend adjusts to over $87 million.

Monsters University always seemed like a slam dunk—Pixar has a fantastic box office track record, and the characters from Monsters, Inc. are some of the more popular ones in their library. By setting this entry in college, it was differentiated from its predecessor and had added appeal for older audiences (who ultimately make the ticket-buying decisions). Finally, after Epic failed to really take off last month, Monsters University was able to benefit from a market that was begging for a family-friendly choice.

The movie's audience was 56 percent female, and 60 percent were 25 years of age and under. As usual with family movies, 3D ticket sales accounted for an incredibly low share of the gross (31 percent).

Pixar movies typically hold on well after opening weekend, and Monsters University should generate good word-of-mouth (it received a solid "A" CinemaScore). A final tally over $230 million is a guarantee at this point—there's no way it hangs on worse than Cars 2—though it could take a major hit when it goes up against Despicable Me 2 in less than two weeks.

Proving once and for all that average audiences couldn't care less about behind-the-scenes drama, Paramount's beleaguered zombie epic World War Z scored an excellent $66.4 million in its opening. That's the second-highest second place debut ever behind The Day After Tomorrow ($68.7 million). It's also the highest start ever for a Brad Pitt movie ahead of 2005's Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($50.3 million), and it's ahead of past June mid-range hits Prometheus ($51.1 million) and Wanted ($50.3 million).

From a press standpoint, the story on World War Z was always about the troubled production, which went way over budget and ultimately resulted in an entire act three reshoot. The vast majority of moviegoers don't pay attention to such things, though, and instead make their buying decision simply on whether or not the movie looks appealing. With massive real-world destruction, a movie star (Brad Pitt) operating within his wheelhouse, and reviews that were fine enough, this wound up looking like perfect escapist entertainment for a hot Summer weekend.

World War Z's audience was 51 percent female and 67 percent were 25 years of age or older; one has to think Pitt's presence helped skew the data in those directions. The movie earned a fine "B+" CinemaScore—with lots of competition on the way, this probably won't hold up too well, though a $140 million domestic total is a lock at this point.

In third place, Man of Steel added $41.3 million. That's off 65 percent from last weekend—68 percent if you roll in grosses from the Thursday ahead of opening day. The 65 percent decline is worse than The Incredible Hulk (60 percent) and only slightly better than notoriously front-loaded comic book movie Green Lantern (66 percent), which is not a flattering comparison. Still, at $210.1 million it's already topped the final tally of Superman Returns ($200 million); if the bleeding slows down next weekend, the movie could still ultimately wind up with over $300 million.

On strong word-of-mouth, This is the End eased 36 percent to $13.3 million. Through 12 days, the apocalypse comedy has grossed $58.1 million. Meanwhile, Now You See Me had another great hold—the movie dipped 29 percent to an estimated $7.8 million, and has so far earned $94.5 million.

The Bling Ring expanded to 650 locations this weekend and stole away with $2 million. Its per-theater average was $3,080, which was below Spring Breakers's $4,401 average during its nationwide expansion.

Around-the-World Roundup

While Man of Steel fell off at the domestic box office, it thrived overseas this weekend. The movie expanded in to 52 markets and added $89 million. That includes a strong $25.5 million debut in China, and good starts in France ($8.2 million) and Spain ($4.4 million). It was less impressive in Germany ($3.8 million) and Italy ($2.3 million), though neither were disappointments either. The movie has already earned $188.3 million, which is just a bit lower than Superman Returns's $191 million; it reaches Australia next weekend, Brazil in July, and Japan in August.

Monsters University debuted to $54.5 million from 35 markets this weekend, which represents about 48 percent of its potential. Unfortunately, Disney did not provide details on individual territories.

World War Z opened in around 30 percent of its foreign markets and earned an estimated $45.8 million this weekend. It took first place in South Korea with a great $10.3 million, and also performed well in the U.K. ($7.1 million) and Australia ($5.5 million). Next weekend, the zombie thriller expands to Germany, Italy, Russia, Brazil and Mexico.

Nearly two weeks ahead of its U.S. debut, Despicable Me 2 opened to $6.4 million in Australia. It expands in to a few more markets—including the U.K. and France—next weekend, the reaches the majority of its foreign territories over the July 5th weekend.

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This Weekend in Past Years:

• 2011 - Pixar Tows 'Cars 2' to Top Spot• 2010 - Pixar Pounds Its 'Toy' Chest

• 2009 - 'Proposal' Pops to the Top, 'Year One' Lacks Stones

• 2007 - 'Evan' All Wet, '1408' Occupied

• 2006 - Sandler Controls Box Office Again

• 2005 - 'Batman' Sweeps 'Bewitched,' Swats Bug

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