by Ray Subers for BoxOfficeMojo
Real Steel fought its way to the top of the box office this weekend, though its debut didn't quite reach heavyweight levels. The Ides of March was the runner-up with a standard George Clooney opening, while Dolphin Tale and Moneyball continued to hold well in their third frames.
Real Steel scored $27.3 million, which tops Rocky IV's $20 million for highest boxing debut ever (though it obviously lags in estimated attendance). It was also the second highest-grossing opening for a sports drama behind The Blind Side's $34.1 million. Still, Real Steel had an average start for movies involving robots, and even wound up behind A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($29.4 million). According to distributor Walt Disney Pictures' exit polling, the audience was 66 percent male and 70 percent under the age of 35, and the movie earned a strong "A" CinemaScore ("A+" for the under-25 crowd). Approximately $3.2 million of Real Steel's $27.3 million came from 270 IMAX screens which represents around 12 percent of the weekend gross.
While Real Steel does feature an "absentee father reunites with estranged son" story similar to many of executive producer Steven Spielberg's movies, that element never came to the forefront of the marketing campaign. Instead, Real Steel was primarily billed as a sci-fi boxing movie, which explains how the audience was skewed towards young males instead of the family audience that would likely have pushed Real Steel's opening a bit higher. Movies that play to young male audiences tend to be fairly front-loaded, and with The Thing, Paranormal Activity 3 and The Three Musketeers on the immediate horizon, it's tough to see how Real Steel gets close to $100 million.
The Ides of March earned $10.47 million on its opening weekend. That's just a bit ahead of George Clooney's Michael Clayton ($10.37 million) but behind his last directorial effort Leatherheads ($12.7 million). It was also slightly off from star Ryan Gosling's Drive ($11.3 million), and it lagged a bit behind Primary Colors ($12 million) among comparable campaign movies. The audience was 58 percent female and 65 percent under the age of 35, and it tallied an okay "B" CinemaScore ("B+" for the under-25 demographic).
The Ides of March was billed as a thriller, but previews were light on action and heavy on political intrigue. That didn't prove to be enough to mobilize a large number of people, most of whom are probably content to get their fill of politics from the non-stop Republican primary news coverage. The movie's mild debut also reemphasizes that while George Clooney and Ryan Gosling are Hollywood darlings, neither are very big box office draws. With solid but unspectacular reviews and a middling CinemaScore, there's virtually no chance The Ides of March ultimately matches Michael Clayton's $49 million.
Thanks to The Ides of March, Moneyball and Courageous, Sony passed $1 billion in 2011 domestic box office on Friday. It's the sixth straight year the studio has reached that milestone (Sony stated that it's the tenth straight year, but Mojo data has the studio earning $917.8 million in 2005), and Sony is the fourth studio to earn $1 billion this year following Paramount, Warner Bros. and Disney.
Last weekend's winner Dolphin Tale eased 34 percent to $9.13 million for a total of $49 million. It's still slightly behind Moneyball, which dipped 38 percent to $7.45 million for a total of $49.2 million.
50/50 had the best hold among last weekend's newcomers. It declined 35 percent to $5.65 million, and the movie has now earned $17.5 million. Courageous on the other hand fell 47 percent to $4.87 million. That's a bit worse than Fireproof's 42 percent decline, though Courageous's $16.16 million total is still running ahead of Fireproof's $12.4 million through the same point.
With the Blu-ray finally in stores, The Lion King (in 3D) plummeted 57 percent to $4.6 million. That brings the re-release's total to $86 million and the movie's overall total to $414.5 million. Within the next few days, The Lion King will pass Toy Story 3 ($415 million) to move in to ninth place on the all-time domestic chart.
Dream House fell 45 percent to $4.48 million for a paltry 10-day total of $14.47 million. What's Your Number? was off 42 percent to $3.13 million for a terrible total of $10.4 million.
In limited release, horror sequel The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence debuted to an estimated $54,000 from 18 locations ($3,000 per-theater average), most of which were only playing the movie during late shows on Friday and Saturday night. The original Human Centipede earned $181,467 in theaters last year, and the sequel will look to eclipse that figure as it expands throughout the month of October.