Nolan's 'Inception' #1 For 3rd Weekend; Carell's 'Dinner For Schmucks' Opens #2; But Zac Efron's 'Charlie St Cloud' Only #6

SUNDAY AM: As July ended, three opening studio movies — Dinner For Schmucks, Charlie St Cloud (which collapsed 32% from Friday to Saturday because Zac Efron’s High School Musical fans frontloaded the grosses), Cats & Dogs 3D: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore — made for a crowded summer box office what with holdovers Salt, Inception, and Despicable Me still going strong. Here are Friday, Saturday, weekend, and cume U.S. and Canada grosses. This weekend will be the first since June 4th without a $30+ million grossing pic. But overall ticket sales still look to total $135M a point or two ahead of last year:

1. Inception (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3,545 Dates]
Friday $8.1M, Saturday $10M, Weekend $27.5M (-36%), Cume $193.3M

Look at those dreamy legs… Chris Nolan’s original film for Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures just keeps going, and going, with great holds. It’s the No. 1 movie for the 3rd straight weekend after briefly giving way to Dinner With Schmucks Friday.

2. Dinner For Schmucks (Paramount) NEW [2,911 Dates]
Friday $8.4M, Saturday $8.3M, Weekend $23.3M

TParamount, DreamWorks, and Spyglass all financed a third of the $62M budget. (This is the first movie new DreamWorks invested in.) Paramount has worldwide distribution and will roll out international in the fall. The behind the scenes maneuvering to turn this comedy from a mediocre grosser to average moneymaker makes for an always interesting but far from atypical story. Back on June 9th, I reported that the buzz had been “it’s not working” on this pic so Paramount, DreamWorks, and Spyglass delayed Dinner For Schmucks originally scheduled for release on July 23 to the younger-skewing weekend of July 30. Well, within minutes of my writing that, I was told no less than “129 people involved with the film lost their minds” as only Hollywood types can. I received panicky calls and emails admitting why the buzz was bad and explaining why it wasn’t anymore. What happened is that the movie’s first test screening last March in Thousand Oaks produced only average scores. Excellent was 35, the top two boxes were 70, and the definite recommend was 50. “Literally, right on the norm. But not where you expect for a high-profile movie directed by Jay Roach and starring Steve Carell,” an insider told me. “Everyone felt a sense of disappointment.”

So the studio, the producers, Carell, and Roach huddled. Roach worked to fix the tone “making sure the movie didn’t play in mean-spirited fashion because the audience found that line had been crossed,” the insider explained. The result was that, at the next screening a month later, the scores had improved: Excellent was 60, the top 2 boxes were 90, and the definite recommend was 75. “So you see how far the movie moved as Jay worked on it,” said an insider, praising Roach for being so “malleable”. (Is that a compliment for a film director?) Despite poor reviews, the film with its “B” CinemaScore this weekend now is meeting Hollywood’s mid-$20sM expectations. It tracked very well among young males and balanced across all age and gender ranges, and the audience was, too (55% male/ 45% female, 46% under 25/54% over 25) — similar to Carell’s last film Date Night (which opened to $25M and went on to gross over $100M).

3. Salt (Sony) Week 2 [3,612 dates]
Friday $5.9M, Saturday $7.7M, Weekend $19.2M (-47%), Cume $70.8M

Sony thinks this holdover starring Angelina Jolie has locked up $100M for sure, and probably at least $110M. It grossed an estimated $24.5M for the weekend abroad, bringing the international cume to $32.8M and a worldwide total of $103.6 million in a little more than a week.

4. Despicable Me 3D (Universal) Week 4 [3,602 Dates]
Friday $4.6M, Saturday $6M, Weekend $15.5M, Cume $190.3M

Still surprising people with its strength. Remember this was a cheap $69M toon, and it’s heading well past $200M domestic. ($230M? $240M?)

5. Cats & Dogs 3D: Kitty Galore (Warner Bros) NEW [3,705 Dates]
Friday $4.2M, Saturday $4.6M, Weekend $12.5M

Big box office disappointment even with those higher 3D ticket prices because the original 2D Cat & Dogs back in 2001 debuted on the Fourth of July with a $21.7 million first weekend. Sequel only mustered a “B-” CinemaScore, and only a +9% matinee bump from Friday to Saturday. For weeks now, the family tracking was not as strong as the studio hoped. What a stupid ad campaign, and those cats looked scary even to me.

6. Charlie St Cloud (Universal) NEW [2,720 Dates]
Friday $5.6M, Saturday $3.8M, Weekend $12.1M

Rival studios thought Friday’s result for this Relativity/Universal drama was frontloaded by Zac Ephron’s High School Musical fans. So right. The pic fell a jaw-dropping -32% from Friday to Saturday, which is either a big error or proof that Zac needs to stick to light comedy. Actually, weeks of tracking had indicated a $13M weekend, in line with other movies of this genre. (Miley Cyrus’ The Last Song debuted Easter weekend and its 3-day was $16M as a result.) Zac did everything publicity-wise including envelope openings to push this pic. But the marketing stupidly gave away the whole plot in the ads. Moviegoers gave it a “B+” CinemaScore overall but under-18s upped that to an “A-“.

7. Toy Story 3D (Disney) Week 7 [2,107 Dates]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5M, Cume $389.6M

At $826.1M globally, Toy Story 3 now stands as the 4th biggest animated title and 23rd biggest movie on a worldwide basis.

8. Grown Ups (Sony) Week 6 [2,269 Dates]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $4.5M, Est Cume $150.7

9. Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Disney) Week 3 [2,524 dates]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $4.3M, Cume $51.8M

Jerry Bruckheimer’s domestic disappointment has now opened in 28 territories representing 30% of the international marketplace where it’s made $40.8M. Right now it’s global cume is $92.7M.

10. Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit) Week 5 [2,334 Dates]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $1.5M, Weekend $3.9M, Cume $288.1M

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