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'G.I. Joe' opens to $100 million worldwide, but will it hold?

August 9, 2009 | 11:14 am

JoeFight "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" earned a studio-estimated $100 million around the globe on its opening weekend, marking Paramount's third successful big-budget action movie of the summer, albeit the smallest one.

The film came in about $10 million under the opening weekend of "Star Trek," which earned $75.2 million domestically and about $35 million overseas. "G.I. Joe" did better internationally, where it grossed a studio-estimated $44 million, despite not yet launching in several key markets, including Germany and Italy. It underperformed "Trek" in the U.S. and Canada, where it opened to $56.2 million.

That's certainly good enough for Paramount to claim victory, however, and start thinking about the future. The studio's vice chairman, Rob Moore, confirmed that a sequel will soon go into development. The film's lead actors are contractually obligated to return for another film, though director Stephen Sommers is not.

There is reason to be concerned about whether "G.I. Joe" will fade quickly at the box office. The film experienced a sizable 18% drop in domestic ticket sales from Friday to Saturday, indicating audience word of mouth may not be great, despite a solid rating of B+ from opening-day moviegoers, according to market research firm CinemaScore. "Star Trek" saw its ticket sales increase from Friday to Saturday and went on to more than triple its opening-weekend gross.

Such a fate looks unlikely for "G.I. Joe," particularly with "District 9" opening Friday and expected to perform well with males, who made up more than 60% of the audience for Paramount's film. Moore said that Paramount will aim marketing more at families going forward as a result, hoping to persuade more parents to take older children to the PG-13 film. Families made up a significant one-third of moviegoers this weekend.

Notably, "Funny People" dropped 15% from Friday to Saturday, a bit less than "G.I. Joe." This weekend, its ticket sales plummeted 65%.

Despite the strong opening, Paramount still needs "G.I. Joe" to hold well on a worldwide basis, as it cost a hefty $175 million to produce and $150 million to market and distribute. Spyglass Entertainment JulieJuliacovered 25% of the production budget.

Relatively, the weekend's biggest hit may have been Sony Pictures' "Julie & Julia," which cost about $40 million to make and opened to $20.1 million. The studio managed to draw an audience that doesn't come out to movies as often: adult women. Females took 67% of theater seats for the cooking drama, while adults older than 35 accounted for 64% of the audience. Given its CinemaScore of A and a 16% rise in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday, "Julie" is well positioned for a long box-office run.

Also opening this weekend was Rogue Pictures' "A Perfect Getaway," which was distributed by Universal. It opened to $5.8 million, a decent start given the thriller's $14-million budget.

Here are the top 10 films at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" (Paramount/Spyglass): Opened to $56.2 million domestically and $44 million overseas.

2. "Julie & Julia" (Sony Pictures): $20.1 million on its first weekend.

3. "G-Force" (Disney): Down 44% on its third weekend to $9.8 million. Total ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada: $86.1 million. Not great given the $150-million production budget.

4. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (Warner Bros.): $8.9 million, a decline of 50% on its fourth weekend. Domestic total: $273.8 million.

5. "Funny People" (Universal/Sony/Relativity): A sharp drop of 65% on its second weekend to $7.9 million. Total domestic ticket sales: $40.4 million.

6. "The Ugly Truth" (Sony): Declined 47% to $7 million. Domestic gross to date: $69.1 million.

7. "A Perfect Getaway" (Universal/Rogue): Launched to $5.8 million.

8. "Aliens in the Attic" (Fox/New Regency): $4 million on its second weekend, down 50%. A weak $16.3 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales so far.

9. "Orphan" (Warner Bros./Dark Castle): Declined 50% on its third weekend to $3.7 million. Domestic total: $34.8 million.

10. "(500) Days of Summer" (Fox Searchlight): Earned $3.7 million as it expanded to 817 theaters. Total gross for the indie romantic comedy is now $12.3 million, making it the biggest limited release of the year so far.

-- Ben Fritz

Update (5:11 PM): This post previously said that audiences gave "Funny People" an average grade of B+ according to CinemaScore. In fact, it was B-. Only men gave it a B+.

Photos: "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." Credit: Frank Masi / Paramount Pictures. Amy Adams in "Julie &  Julia." Credit: Jonathan Wenk /  Sony Pictures

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