"Super 8" defies skeptics with big box office debut

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 13, 2011 11:52 PM
"Super 8" defies skeptics with big box office debut

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Super 8" easily claimed the top spot at the weekend box office in North America, despite concerns about the secretive marketing campaign for the sci-fi mystery with a no-name cast.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the Paramount Pictures release earned about $37 million during its first three days of release, exceeding the studio's low-ball forecast in the $25 million to $30 million range.

The film earned an additional $1 million through a Twitter-related round of sneak previews on Thursday.

In a summer of sequels and superheroes, "Super 8" is the first original, live-action non-sequel to take the No. 1 slot in almost three months. The thriller "Limitless" led the field during the weekend of March 18-20.

Last weekend's champion, "X-Men: First Class," the fifth entry in the Marvel comic book series, slipped to No. 2 with $25.0 million. It was followed by "The Hangover, Part II" with $18.5 million in its third weekend.

The only other new entry in the top 10 bombed. The kids movie "Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer" opened at No. 7 with just $6.3 million, coming in at the low end of expectations in the $6 million to $10 million range.

The advance buzz for "Super 8" was hardly deafening, even with the A-list imprimatur of J.J. Abrams as writer/director and Steven Spielberg as a producer. Abrams convinced skeptical Paramount executives to run a campaign that retained a sense of old-fashioned mystery, earning scorn from industry pundits as surveys showed little enthusiasm among prospective moviegoers.

The plot centers on a group of kids in a small Ohio town who spend the summer of 1979 making a home movie using the 8mm film format that was popular back then and from which the film gets its title. They witness a train crash, which triggers a series of inexplicable events and disappearances. The trailer deliberately did not show the alien creature around which the film revolves.

As industry pundits began to second-guess the strategy, Paramount last week announced the film would open a day ahead of schedule on Thursday in a sneak-preview promotion with Twitter. A glimpse of the creature was also sent online.

The last-minute fix, along with overwhelmingly positive reviews, seemed to do the trick. The film cost a relatively modest $50 million to make, according to Paramount.

Elsewhere, "Judy Moody" is the latest in a string of underperforming literary adaptations aimed at young girls, including last summer's Beverly Cleary adaptation "Ramona and Beezus" and a 2007 adaptation of the Nancy Drew books.

It was financed for nearly $20 million by Sarah Siegel-Magness and her husband Gary Magness, the couple who previously backed the Oscar-winning movie "Precious."

Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc. "X-Men: First Class" was distributed by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp. "The Hangover: Part II" was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc. "Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer" was distributed by privately held Relativity Media.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Eric Beech)