Well call me surprised, but early numbers for this weekend's box office are bringing new meaning to the phrase, "May the best man win."
To be sure, the folks at Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) Universal Studios must be more than happy right now after Malcom D. Lee's sequel, The Best Man Holiday, opened to an impressive $10.7 million in gross ticket sales Friday. Assuming average weekend multipliers, that puts the African-American comedy on pace for an impressive $30 million opening weekend, or nearly double Comcast's minuscule $17 million production budget.
What's more, it's especially impressive considering its predecessor in 1999 earned a total of just $34.6 million over its entire 14-week theatrical run.
Meanwhile, Marvel's Thor: The Dark World wasn't far behind with its own solid $10.5 million take. And even though this is Thor: The Dark World's second weekend in the U.S., the fact that Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) $170 million blockbuster is trailing at all is simply stunning. Even so, considering the comic book-inspired sequel managed to pick up steam nicely toward the end of its domestic launch one week ago, early projections expect Thor: The Dark World to come out on top with $35 million when all is said and done.
For those of you keeping track, that would still represent a 59.3% plunge from last weekend's $86.1 million gross. While such a performance would be in line with the 58.4% second-weekend drop experienced by Iron Man 3 earlier this year, it's clearly disappointing compared to the 47.2% decrease for the first Thor in 2011.
That's not to say Thor: The Dark World isn't leaving audiences suitably entertained. After all, it did garner a respectable "A-" CinemaScore from polled audiences, so it should be benefiting from positive word of mouth. But that's also where The Best Man Holiday has shined the brightest, earning a rare A+ CinemaScore and indicating movie-goers couldn't have been happier with the film.
In other holdover news, CBS Films' Last Vegas gathered a solid $2.5 million to start its third weekend, bringing the comedy's domestic-only gross to $40.6 million. Next, Viacom's raunchy low-budget hit in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa also continued running up the score, raking in another $2.3 million in its fourth Friday. Meanwhile, Relativity Media's animated third-week contender, Free Birds, grabbed $1.77 million. So far, Bad Grandpa and Free Birds have earned global totals of more than $107 million and $35.6 million, respectively.
Finally, Ender's Game continued to crumble in its own third weekend, earning roughly $1.7 million Friday and bringing its worldwide total to just $58.4 million, or just over half its massive $110 million production budget.
As it stands, then, it'll be interesting to see how the final sales figures pan out on Monday as Thor: The Dark World and The Best Man Holiday duke it out for first place. Regardless of which movie wins, however, kudos are in order for the folks at Comcast and The Best Man Holiday for a job well done. No matter how you slice it, those early numbers point to a breakout financial success over the long run.
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