By Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" won the weekend box office derby with $21.2 million in ticket sales, outpacing both last week's winner "300: Rise of An Empire" and video game turned car racing movie "Need for Speed."
The animated "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," which opened a week earlier in the No. 2 spot, overtook last week's winner, the Greek-era action film "300: Rise of an Empire" which collected $19.1 million from Friday to Sunday, according to studio estimates.
"Need for Speed" settled for third place on its opening weekend with ticket sales of $17.8 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters.
"Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club," the weekend's other new movie, was fifth behind "Non-Stop," selling $8.3 million worth of tickets. The Liam Neeson airliner thriller made $10.6 million.
The stunt-filled "Need for Speed," starring Aaron Paul of the AMC television series "Breaking Bad," had hoped to capitalize on the video game franchise's appeal to a young audience, but fell short of Hollywood's forecast of a $22 million-to-$25 million opening weekend. Paul stars as a street racer who seeks revenge after being framed for the death of a close friend.
"The tracking had shown the younger audience was as hot as could be," said Dave Hollis, executive vice president of film distribution at Walt Disney Studios, which released the film produced by Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio.
"So when they didn't show, yes it leaves us disappointed," said Hollis. "But the good news is the folks who did come really liked it," he noted, citing moviegoer polls, and adding that the studio was hopeful that strong word of mouth with approaching school and Easter holidays would stoke the box office.
The film, which cost about $66 million, took in about $63 million globally during its opening, Hollis said.
"Mr. Peabody & Sherman," which features the talking dog Mr. Peabody and his adopted boy, Sherman, is the latest animated film from Hollywood to enjoy a strong audience reception following Disney's "Frozen" and "The Lego Movie" from Warner Brothers.
The film, based on the "Peabody's Improbable History" segments in the 1960s animated TV show starring the characters Rocky and Bullwinkle, has taken in more than $63 million since its opening on March 7 and had the relatively unusual experience
of moving up into the top box office spot on a weekend other than its opening one.
"300: Rise of an Empire," a blood-splattered sequel to the 2006 blockbuster "300" about the war between Greeks and Persians, has generated $78 million since its March 7 opening, according to box office tracking service Rentrak.
The film, based on a graphic novel by author Frank Miller and produced by Legendary Pictures, stars Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton as the Greek leader Themistocles and French actress and model Eva Green as the ruthless commander of the Persian forces. It added another $41 million this weekend in foreign markets.
In a limited run, "Veronica Mars," starring Kristen Bell in a film adaption of the TV series that ran on the UPN and The CW networks from 2004 to 2007, collected ticket sales of $2 million at 291 theaters.
The film was financed with $5.7 million in contributions from more than 91,000 fans of the show who responded to pleas from Kirsten Bell and the show's creator Rob Thomas through crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel," Wes Anderson's whimsical caper film starring Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, continued to chalk up impressive ticket sales with $3.6 million at just 66 theaters. Last week it set an industry record $200,000 per screen average over three days playing in only four theaters.
Walt Disney distributed "Need for Speed." Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner, distributed "300: Rise of an Empire," "The Lego Movie" and "Veronica Mars."
Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox, distributed "Son of God," and "Mr. Peabody & Sherman." "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was distributed by Fox Searchlight, a unit of Fox.
Lionsgate released "Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club."
(Reporting By Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud; Editing by Rosalind Russell)