The gods of ancient Greece have extended their rule to the weekend box office with a No. 1 debut for the action tale "Immortals."
The story of Greek hero Theseus took in $32 million domestically, while Adam Sandler's comedy "Jack and Jill" opened at No. 2 with $26 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The new movies bumped the animated hit "Puss in Boots" to the No. 3 spot after two weekends at the top. "Puss in Boots" earned $25.5 million, raising its domestic total to $108.8 million.
Director Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar," a film biography starring Leonardo DiCaprio as longtime FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, played in narrower release and opened at No. 5 with $11.5 million.
Released by Relativity Media, "Immortals" stars Henry Cavill and Freida Pinto in a tale of human heroes battling an evil king (Mickey Rourke) who aims to bring down the Olympian gods.
With males making up 60 percent of its audience, "Immortals" has a chance to corner much of the action market through Thanksgiving weekend and beyond, a period likely to be dominated by family movies such as "Happy Feet 2," "The Muppets," "Hugo" and "Arthur Christmas."
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn _ Part 1" does open Friday, but that blockbuster action fantasy franchise mainly draws female crowds, typically a smaller segment of the action audience.
"There's really not another action movie until you approach the Christmas holidays," said Kyle Davies, head of distribution for Relativity. "Over the next few weeks, there's no real competition for us."
"Immortals" added $36 million in 35 overseas markets, bringing its worldwide total to $68 million.
Sandler plays dual roles in "Jack and Jill," portraying a sturdy family man and his needy sister, who comes to visit for Thanksgiving.
"Jack and Jill" got off to a solid start but came in on the low end for Sandler, whose comedies typically open in the $30 million to $40 million range. Still, it continues Sandler's virtually unbroken string of strong openings for his broad comedies dating back to the late 1990s.
"A big part of his success is just that sort of Everyman appeal he has, whether it be the guys going out to have a beer or girls thinking he's just as charming as all hell," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony, which released "Jack and Jill."
"J. Edgar" played in 1,910 theaters, compared with more than 3,000 for the rest of the top-five movies. It was the weekend's grown-up choice, with 66 percent of viewers over age 50, according to distributor Warner Bros.
Like "Immortals" with action crowds, "J. Edgar" has the prospect to dominate among older viewers through Thanksgiving weekend, one of the busiest times of the year for movie theaters.
"We're the adult choice," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner. "We feel we have really good play time ahead of us going into the holiday."
"J. Edgar" will join a parade of potential Academy Awards contenders arriving before year's end as Hollywood rolls into its most diverse season, when drama, comedy, action and family films share screen time.
"This was one of the first weekends we've seen in a while that had a nice combination of films that gave us a really solid weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "To me, this is what the holiday season is all about, having films like `Immortals' in the mix in the top-five with a drama like `J. Edgar.'"
The variety clicked with audiences this weekend. Overall revenues came in at $137 million, up 13 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Megamind" led with $29.1 million, according to Hollywood.com.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Immortals," $32 million ($36 million international).
2. "Jack and Jill," $26 million ($2.7 million international).
3. "Puss in Boots," $25.5 million ($4.5 million international).
4. "Tower Heist," $13.2 million ($7.6 million international).
5. "J. Edgar," $11.5 million.
6. "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," $5.9 million.
7. "In Time," $4.2 million ($8.5 million international).
8. "Paranormal Activity 3," $3.6 million ($7.1 million international).
9. "Footloose," $2.7 million.
10. "Real Steel," $2 million ($12 million international).
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "Immortals," $36 million.
2. "The Adventures of Tintin," $26.7 million.
3. "Real Steel," $12 million.
4. "In Time," $8.5 million.
5. "Tower Heist," $7.6 million.
6. "Paranormal Activity 3," $7.1 million.
7. "Contagion," $6.8 million.
8. "The Lion King," $4.8 million.
9. "Puss in Boots," $4.5 million.
10. "Moneyball," $4.2 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.