LOS ANGELES — “The Meg” devoured the competition at the domestic box office.
Warner Bros.’ big-budget shark thriller opened well above expectations, biting off $44.5 million when it opened in 4,118 North American locations. That was easily enough to nab the No. 1 slot over “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” which picked up $20 million in its third outing for a domestic tally of $162 million.
“The Meg,” which is a co-production with China, will still have to secure big returns overseas to justify its expensive $130 million production budget. It’s not quite in the black yet, but it’s off to a good start given a $96.8 million international tally. In the Middle Kingdom, it generated a strong $50 million. Imax screens accounted for $13.6 million of “The Meg’s” $141.3 million global total.
With $44.5 million, “The Meg” secured the best opening of the year for Warner Bros., ahead of “Ready Player One” ($41.7 million) and “Ocean’s 8” ($41.6 million).
Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ head of domestic distribution, attributes the better-than-expected opening to the studio’s marketing campaign, along with a noncompetitive August debut.
“It’s just good popcorn entertainment that didn’t take itself too seriously,” he said. “It’s silly, it’s fun, and it lets audiences have a good time.”
Fellow newcomer “BlacKkKlansman” debut in fifth place with $10.8 million in 1,500 locations, earning director Spike Lee his best opening in over a decade. Lee’s Cannes Grand Prix-winning crime drama, which debuted on the first anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville rally, has maintained enthusiasm with a promising 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and A- CinemaScore.
“Theaters told us repeatedly over the weekend that audiences were applauding, laughing, emotional and some in tears by the film,” Focus Features’ president of distribution Lisa Bunnell said. “Spike has been able to bring something to the conversation of America that people haven’t been able to have.”
Horror auteurs Jason Blum and Jordan Peele co-produced the Focus Features title, which tells the true story of black detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), who goes undercover — with the help of Jewish cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) — to infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Prior to “BlacKkKlansman,” Lee’s 2006 film “Inside Man” launched with $28 million. His latest outing, “Chi-Raq,” picked up $2.5 million during its limited theatrical run ahead of an Amazon release.
Sony’s “Slender Man,” also debuted nationwide this weekend, landing in fourth with $11.3 million in 2,358 locations. That’s a solid start given the low-budget thriller carries a $10 million price tag.
The final weekend opener, “Dog Days,” picked up $2.6 million when it launched in 2,442 locations.
Meanwhile, Disney’s “Christopher Robin” earned $12.7 million in its sophomore frame, landing the fantasy drama based on the characters from Winnie the Pooh in third place. To date, it has generated $50.3 million in North America.
Universal’s jukebox musical “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” reached a major milestone of its own, crossing $100 million at the domestic box office. The sequel has generated more than $280 million worldwide.
A24’s “Eighth Grade” hit an achievement of its own with $10 million at the domestic box office. Bo Burnham’s coming of age drama picked up another $1.6 million in its fifth frame.
At the specialty box office, Magnolia Pictures’ “Skate Kitchen” bowed with $17,000 when it opened in just one location. The best per-screen-average, however, went to Oscilloscope’s “Madeline’s Madeline,” which pocketed $20,000 from one venue.
The summer box office remains strong, up a promising 11.2 percent from last year, according to comScore. Thanks to a surprisingly powerful debut from “The Meg,” the weekend-to-date number is up 23.7 percent from the same frame last year, when “Annabelle: Creation” launched with $35 million.