Low-budget screamfest "The Conjuring" buried pricey ghost tale "R.I.P.D.' at the box office this weekend, with a stunning debut of $41.3 million – more than double its production budget. That's the best opening ever for an original R-rated horror film, topping the $34 million taken in by "The Purge" last month.
And it turned the box-office race into a blowout.
"R.I.P.D.," Universal's $130 million Ryan Reynolds-Jeff Bridges comic book-based tale of supernatural cops scared up just $12.7 million over the three days and finished seventh, making it one of the summer's biggest bombs.
This marks the fourth week in a row that a movie with a budget well over $100 million has tanked, coming in the wake of box-office belly flops by "White House Down," "The Lone Ranger" and last week's "Pacific Rim."
And "R.I.P.D." wasn't the only high-priced opener to misfire.
DreamWorks Animation's $135 million 3D family film 'Turbo" was overwhelmed by the minions of "Despicable Me 2." The tale of a snail with dreams of the Indy 500 sputtered to $21.5 million over the three days, giving it $31.5 million since its Wednesday opening.
"Despicable Me 2," the defending box office champ, fell to second but still brought in $25 million in its third week. With a $276 million domestic total, it's the year's highest-grossing animated film domestically, and has taken in $585 million at the worldwide box office for Universal.
The weekend's other wide opener, Summit's action comedy sequel 'Red 2," wound up in fifth with $17.9 million, less than the $21 million that the original debuted to October of 2010.
It was beaten out by the Adam Sandler comedy "Grown Ups 2," which brought in $20 million and has grossed nearly $80 million in two weeks for Sony.
"The Conjuring," directed by James Wan ("Saw") and starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, got high marks from reviewers and audiences – rare for a horror film.
It has an 85 percent positive rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. And first night audiences – which broke down 53 percent female and 59 percent over 25 years of age -- gave it an "A-" CinemaScore.
"James Wan delivered a really smart, well-crafted film," Warner Bros. executive vice-president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein told TheWrap, "and I think that's the biggest reason that audiences responded the way they did. The whole real-life aspect of it ('The Conjuring" was based on a real-life case) resonated, too."
"R.I.P.D." was all but dead on arrival.
Universal held off on press screenings for the PG-13 rated tale directed by Robert Schwentke until the last minute, but when critics did see it, they loathed it. "R.I.P.D." has a dismal 11 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences, which were 53 percent male and 57 percent over 25 years of age, gave it a weak "C+" CinemaScore.
Coupled with the underwhelming "Turbo" debut, it gave "R.I.P.D." star Reynolds a dubious box-office double this weekend. He also voiced the main snail in the animated tale.
With a veteran cast that included Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins, "Red 2" targeted a mature audience. It connected, with 67 percent of those who saw it over 35 years of age, and that and the "B+" CinemaScore offer Summit hope that it will play solidly over the next few weeks.
Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" brought in nearly $16 million and has now grossed $68 million domestically after two weeks for Warner Bros.
Fox's comedy "The Heat" upped its domestic total to $129 million after four weeks with a $9.3 million weekend.
Brad Pitt's zombie thriller "World War Z" is on its way to $200 million at the domestic box office. The Paramount action film took in $5.2 million to up its North American total to $187 million after five weeks.
"Monsters University" added $5 million over the weekend and the animated sequel is up to nearly $250 million domestically. With another $284 million from foreign, the Pixar film has brought in $533 million globally in five weeks for Disney.
But the same studio's "The Lone Ranger" fell out of the top ten in its third week, landing at No. 11 with $4.2 million. The $225 million Johnny Depp-Armie Hammer take on the classic Western has taken in just $81 million domestically.
- James Wan