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The Disney Animation title soars to $232.5 million worldwide; elsewhere, ‘London Has Fallen' lags behind its predecessor, while Tina Fey's ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' and Terrence Malick's ‘Knight of Cups' struggle.
The renaissance continues for the house that Walt built.
Over the weekend, Zootopia — buoyed by glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore — launched to a record $73.7 million from 3,827 theaters in North America, the top showing ever for Disney Animation Studios and the top March debut for an animated title, besting Dr. Suess' The Lorax ($70.2 million). To boot, it's the No. 4 March opening for any film, behind The Hunger Games ($152.5 million) and two Disney live-action titles, Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million) and Oz The Great and Powerful ($79.1 million).
Disney Animation's previous biggest opening belonged to the 2013 blockbuster Frozen ($67.4 million).
Zootopia is also huge overseas, where it began rolling out two weeks ago. The family film took in another $63.4 million this weekend — including $24 million in China, the biggest opening ever for a Disney Animation or Pixar release — putting its foreign total at $158.8 million and worldwide haul at $232.5 million. Imax theaters, not exactly known for family films, turned in an impressive $8.5 million globally.
Set in a city of anthropomorphic animals, Zootopia tells the story of a rookie bunny cop who teams up with a fugitive fox to uncover a conspiracy. Byron Howard and Rich Moore directed the animated film, which features the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Jenny Slate.
The reinvention of Disney Animation Studios began when Disney bought Pixar and put Pixar's John Lasseter and Ed Catmull in charge of all animation efforts. Tangled, released in 2010, was the first title released under their tenure, followed by Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Big Hero 6.
“John and Ed have installed a culture of high-quality, filmmaker-driven movies,” says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis, adding that Zootopia will benefit from there being no other new family films until fellow Disney title The Jungle Book hits theaters April 15.
Adds box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian: “Disney Animation Studios has really come into its own, with a specific identity and point of view that is separate and distinctive from the ubiquitous Pixar brand yet offers a diversity of content that has proven irresistible to family audiences.”
Disney does not reveal budgets for its animated films, but Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 cost roughly $165 million to make.
Zootopia easily placed No. 1 at the worldwide box office, ending Deadpool‘s three-week reign. Deadpool still had plenty to celebrate as it zoomed past the $300 million mark in North America, earning $16.3 million from 3,624 theaters in its fourth weekend for a domestic total of $311.2 million through Sunday. Overseas, its weekend take was $21.2 million for a foreign cume of $362 million and worldwide total of $673.2 million.
However, edging out Zootopia to top the foreign chart was Hong Kong martial-arts pic Ip Man 3, which blazed to $75 million after opening Friday in China (Mike Tyson is among the movie's stars).
Among other new titles on the marquee, London Has Fallen fared the best, placing No. 2 in North America with $21.7 million from 3,490 theaters. However, it came in behind expectations after earning scathing reviews (audiences liked it better, giving it an A- CinemaScore). In 2013, sleeper hit Olympus Has Fallen debuted to $30.4 million.
Babak Najafi directed London Has Fallen for Millennium, with Focus Features handling distribution duties. Angela Bassett, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman return alongside Gerard Butler.
London Has Fallen gives Butler back-to-back openings at the box office after last weekend's Gods of Egypt, which has fared miserably. Gods of Egypt tumbled 64 percent to $5 million in its second weekend for a domestic total of $22.8 million, coming in No. 5. It's faring somewhat better overseas, grossing $15.7 million for a foreign cume of $49.6 million and a global total of $72.4 million.
Like London Has Fallen, Tina Fey's war dramedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot also came in behind expectations, opening to an estimated $7.6 million from 2,374 theaters, one of the lower starts for the popular actress.
“The movie opened just a little softer than we hoped for but Tina's movies, such as Sisters, play to a great multiple and we had a great Saturday, so we're hoping for a strong run,” says Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on journalist Kim Barker's memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and Alfred Molina also star in the movie, whose producers include Lorne Michaels. Political and war-themed dramedies can have a difficult time at the box office; last fall, Sandra Bullock's Our Brand Is Crisis all-out failed with a $3.2 million opening.
Whiskey Tango, which earned decent reviews and a B CinemaScore, skewed female (56 percent) and notably older, with nearly 90 percent of ticket buyers over the age of 25.
In other action, Oscar-winner Spotlight aggressively expanded into a total of 1,227 theaters following its best picture win, a bold gamble considering the movie is now available on DVD. Spotlight came in No. 14 with $1.8 million to jump the $40 million mark and finish Sunday with $41.6 million domestically for Open Road Films. Sierra/Affinity is handling the pic overseas, where Spotlight has grossed an impressive $30.3 million for a worldwide tally of $71.9 million.
The big headline at the specialty box office was the poor showing of Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups. Opening in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the movie grossed $56,668 for a location average of $14,172 for Broad Green Pictures. Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Wes Bentley star.
March 6, 11:45 a.m. A previous version of this story stated that Zootopia topped the foreign box-office chart. THR regrets the error.