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'Brave' slays 'Vampire Hunter,' debuts with strong $66.7 million

It was a highly animated weekend at the box office, as moviegoers spent more than $85 million to see both "Brave" and "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."

"Brave" is the 13th film from Pixar Animation to open in the No. 1 position at the multiplex, as the 3-D film debuted with a strong $66.7 million this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios. Meanwhile, the 3-D animated "Madagascar 3" continued to do strong business even on its third weekend in theaters, grossing an additional $20 million. The DreamWorks Animation title has now collected $157.4 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Beyond "Brave," however, the weekend's other debuts failed to resonate with audiences. The historical 3-D thriller "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" got off to an underwhelming start, grossing $16.5 million in its opening weekend. And the apocalypse dramedy "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" attracted far fewer moviegoers to theaters, debuting with a disappointing $3.8 million. 

"Brave" is the latest hit for Disney's Pixar animation unit, which has a nearly impeccable track record at the box office. The movie got off to a slightly better start than the company's last release, "Cars 2," which opened with $66.1 million last summer and was one of the only Pixar releases that didn't receive overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Critics were far kinder to "Brave," and moviegoers also loved the film, assigning it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The movie stars Pixar's first female protagonist, a Scottish teenage princess named Merida whose defiant nature creates trouble within her kingdom. 

While the film's advertising campaign attempted to play up Merida's more tomboyish traits, like the fact that her favorite pasttime is archery, the movie still appealed mostly to young girls this weekend. Roughly 57% of the audience for "Brave" was female, and two-thirds of the crowd was comprised of parents with their children.

While seven of the top 10 highest-grossing theaters for the film were in California, the movie also did particularly well in family-skewing markets like Orlando, Seattle and Salt Like City, where ticket sales were 53% above the norm.

Overseas, "Brave" debuted in 10 foreign markets including Russia and China and grossed $13.5 million in total. The film will not open in Scotland, where it is set, until mid-August.

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" wasn't well-liked in America, as those who saw it here this weekend gave it only an average grade of C+. The film, which also suffered from poor reviews, features President Lincoln as an ax-carrying man intent on slaying the nation's vampires. 20th Century Fox spent roughly $69 million to produce the film, which does not star any well-known actors.

Based on a best-selling novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, the movie was expected to appeal mostly to young men this weekend. While the movie did attract more men than women, about 44% of the crowd was female, and 53% of moviegoers were over the age of 25. 

"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" was expected to debut with at least $7 million, but the film failed to attract the strong adult audience Focus Features was hoping for. The movie, which stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as two friends who bond on the eve of the apocalypse, cost the studio roughly $10 million to produce. 

Unfortunately for Focus, the movie will probably not generate positive word of mouth, as it too received a dismal C+ CinemaScore.

[Updated, 11:43 a.m. June 24: Overseas, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" debuted in 17 foreign markets and collected $8.1 million. The film performed best in Russia, where it grossed $3.9 million. The movie has yet to open in a handful of major international countries, including Brazil and Japan.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international results when available, according to studio estimates and Rentrak:

1. "Brave" (Disney): Opened with $66.7 million. $13.5 million overseas in 10 foreign markets.

2. "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted(Paramount/DreamWorks Animation): $20 million on its third weekend, down 41%. Domestic total: $157.6 million. $30.1 million overseas in 44 foreign markets. International total: $208.4 million.

3. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (Fox): Opened with $16.5 million. $8.1 million overseas in 17 foreign markets.

4. "Prometheus" (Fox): $10 million on its third weekend, down 52%. Domestic total: $108.5 million. $12.7 million overseas in 61 foreign markets. International total: $152.9 million.

5. "Snow White and the Huntsman" (Universal): $8 million on its fourth weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $137.1 million. $22.6 million overseas in 60 foreign markets. International total: $160.4 million.

6. "Rock of Ages" (Warner Bros.): $8 million on its second weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $28.8 million. $2.9 million overseas in 24 foreign markets. International total: $8.6 million.

7. "That's My Boy" (Sony): $7.9 million on its second weekend, down 41%. Domestic total: $28.2 million. $900,000 overseas in seven foreign markets. International total: $2.8 million.

8. "The Avengers" (Disney): $7 million on its eighth weekend, down 21%. Domestic total: $598.3 million. $2.3 million overseas in 56 foreign markets. International total: $837.9 million.

9. "Men in Black" (Sony/Hemisphere): $5.6 million on its fifth weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $163.3 million. $10.5 million overseas in 75 foreign markets. International total: $414 million.

10. "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" (Focus Features): Opened with $3.8 million.]

RELATED:

Mark Andrews is up to the task for 'Brave'

Movie Projector: 'Brave' to dominate with expected $65 million

Word of Mouth: 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' campaigns hard

Follow Amy Kaufman on Twitter @AmyKinLA

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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