Female moviegoers flexed their box-office might again this weekend, helping Melissa McCarthy's comedy "Spy" take the No. 1 spot with an estimated $30 million in the U.S. and Canada.
The espionage film, released by 20th Century Fox, follows Susan Cooper (McCarthy), a secret agent on her first field assignment to stop an arms dealer from selling a nuclear weapon. Jude Law, Jason Statham and Rose Byrne costar. The film was produced by Chernin Entertainment for about $65 million.
"Spy" marks the third time that director Paul Feig has partnered with McCarthy, following the 2013 comedy "The Heat" and the 2011 hit "Bridesmaids," which also starred Byrne.
Critics and audiences have been buzzing about “Spy” since its debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March. The film racked up a 95% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Taking Melissa McCarthy and turning her into that spy hero is a real genre-bending thing that is just so successful," said Chris Aronson, Fox's head of distribution. "Female empowerment is so potent at the box office."
Like "Bridesmaids," "Spy" earned a B-plus rating from audience polling firm CinemaScore. An estimated 60% of moviegoers were female and 65% were older than 25.
"Paul Feig does a good job of balancing sophistication along with hilarious slapstick comedy," Aronson added. "It's a potent combination."
Overseas, the film made $25.6 million in 54 markets, bringing the comedy's worldwide total to $86.5 million.
"San Andreas," last weekend's top film, fell 52% in ticket sales and finished second. It added $26.4 million to its domestic haul, bringing its total to just under $100 million.
The earthquake film, co-produced by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures at a cost of $110 million, stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a helicopter pilot who is searching for his daughter after a massive temblor.
Positive word of mouth, reflected in an A-minus from CinemaScore, helped it to retain its audience.
"Insidious: Chapter 3," the latest from Blumhouse Productions, opened in third place with a solid $23 million. The film, which is being released by Gramercy Pictures, Focus Features’ genre label, cost a modest $10 million to make.
Leigh Whannell, co-creator of the “Insidious” and “Saw” films, directs, writes and acts in this third installment in the horror franchise.
Franchise co-creator James Wan, who recently directed "Furious 7," serves as producer along with Jason Blum and “Paranormal Activity” creator Oren Peli. In 2013, the second installment collected more than $40 million in its opening weekend -- three times more than what the original "Insidious" took in its first weekend in 2011.
"Audiences really continue to embrace this franchise and we're thrilled," said Jim Orr, president of distribution at Focus Features.
The marketing campaign for the third installment was geared toward the core franchise fan base, which skews younger than 25. It worked: An estimated 69% of the audience for the film fell in that age group. An estimated 54% of moviegoers were women. Audiences gave the film a B-plus rating on CinemaScore, and critics were mostly positive.
"Entourage," which cost less than $30 million to make, ended in fourth for the weekend with a three-day total of $10.4 million. The film, which got off to a strong start with a midweek opening, has collected $17.8 million domestically total.
Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' head of domestic distribution, said he was pleasantly surprised by the uptick in sales on Saturday, especially on the West Coast. Four of the five top-grossing theaters for Saturday night showings were in Los Angeles.
"That to me was the first time we had that burst from the West Coast, which is encouraging and hopefully and indication that we are going to hold nicely," Fellman said.
Written and directed by TV series creator Doug Ellin, "Entourage" picks up shortly after the 2011 HBO finale with the boys -- Hollywood star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), E (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Drama (Kevin Dillon) -- back to their usual shenanigans.
Celebrity cameos also propel the film, including appearances by Pharrell Williams, Jessica Alba, Liam Neeson, Warren Buffett, Tom Brady and Mark Wahlberg, producer and the series’ inspiration.
By comparison, two movies based on the HBO series "Sex and the City" opened to bigger numbers. Pals Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte signed off the TV series in 2004, and the first film, released in 2008, opened at No. 1 with a $57 million despite lukewarm reviews. It went on to rack up $152.6 million in the U.S. and Canada and $415.3 million worldwide.
"We loved working with HBO," Fellman said. "I really think there's a tremendous opportunity with some of the incredible product that they have to put on the big screen."
Though “Entourage” has a loyal following, especially among male audiences, some critics have bashed the show for glorifying a storyline about shallow dudes who objectify women. The film has received similarly poor reviews, but audiences gave it an A-minus grade from CinemaScore. An estimated 64% of the audience was male.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" rounded out the top five, collecting about $8 million in its fourth weekend of release. On Saturday, Warner Bros. announced the action film roared past the $300-million mark internationally. Domestically, the film has made $130.8 million.
The latest George Miller franchise film, with consistently positive reviews and a B-plus grade from audiences, stars Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy in the title role made famous by Mel Gibson.
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