The results of this weekend's box office might seem surprising on the surface, but it didn't take "childlike faith" to know Sony (NYSE:SNE) TriStar's Heaven Is for Real would come out strong.
Despite Sony's paltry $12 million budget and launching in just 2,417 theaters this weekend, Heaven Is for Real gathered an impressive $21.5 million in gross ticket sales during its first weekend -- a result bolstered by Sony's wise decision to queue the faith-based film's domestic weekend debut to coincide with Easter.
Still, that wasn't enough to top last weekend's champs in Disney (NYSE:DIS) Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) subsidiary Blue Sky Studios' Rio 2. All told, Winter Soldier just won its third consecutive weekend in the U.S., falling only 35.5% to an estimated $26.6 million. That brings Winter Soldier's worldwide total to nearly $587 million, or more more than three times Disney's super-sized $170 million production budget.
Rio 2 also continued to perform well for Twenty-First Century Fox, dropping a reasonable 42.8% in its own second weekend to $22.5 million. That's notably greater than the first Rio's 32.9% week-two plunge this time four years ago, but doesn't mean Rio 2 is a failure. The animated sequel has already accumulated $275 million worldwide -- of which 72.6% was derived internationally -- nearly tripling Blue Sky Studios' $103 million production outlay. Over the next few months, there's little doubt Rio 2 will prove profitable for Twenty-First-Century Fox.
Heaven is the real winner here
Nonetheless, there's little doubt Heaven Is for Real is shining bright as the weekend's biggest winner. The novel-based movie has already collected over $28 million in gross receipts since its late-Wednesday debut, and should ultimately multiply Sony's paltry $12 million outlay many times over. In the end, and even if polled audiences hadn't loved it -- which they did, giving it a coveted "A" CinemaScore -- it seems safe to say Heaven Is for Real would have enjoyed a strong start regardless of which new blockbuster hopeful attempted to stand in its way.
Unfortunately for Alcon Entertainment and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros., that happened to be the 3,455-theater release of Transcendence. Despite Alcon's $100 million budget and Time Warner's marketing heft, the sci-fi flick bombed in its first weekend stateside by collecting just $11.15 million for fourth place. Worse yet, if its mediocre "C+" CinemaScore is any indication, Transcendence has little hope of riding any momentum from positive word of mouth in the coming weeks.
Next weekend shouldn't rock the boat too much given only a handful of relatively low-key releases. On the action front, there's Relativity Media's 2,400-theater launch featuring Paul Walker in Brick Mansions, while Lions Gate's The Quiet Ones will attempt to steal the horror spotlight from Relativity's successful holdover, Oculus.
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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.