LOS ANGELES — Four new films hit theaters this weekend, but moviegoers still had "Think Like a Man" on their minds.
In a surprise win, the ensemble relationship comedy topped the box office for the second consecutive weekend, collecting $18 million and bringing its 10-day domestic total to $60.9 million, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. Based on a relationship book by comedian Steve Harvey, the movie has a predominantly African American cast and has already outgrossed a number of successful movies aimed at black audiences, including all but two of Tyler Perry's films.
Another holdover, the Zac Efron tear-jerker "The Lucky One," also had a solid second weekend in theaters, grossing $11.3 million. Driven largely by the strength of ticket sales in such cities as Atlanta, Charlotte and Cincinnati, the Nicholas Sparks adaptation has now reached about $40 million worth of receipts
Heading into the weekend, the Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy "The Five-Year Engagement" was expected to be No. 1. Instead, the movie debuted with a disappointing $11.2 million — far below industry projections of $18 million or more, and less than even Universal Pictures' modest $13 million prediction.
Three other debuts also failed to make serious dents at the box office. "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," a 3-D stop-motion animated picture, started off with a slightly better $11.4 million — though it cost about $30 million more to produce than "Engagement." The Jason Statham action flick "Safe," meanwhile, grossed an unimpressive $7.7 million, roughly as much as the lackluster $7.3 million that the John Cusack horror film "The Raven" opened with.
As a result of the weak performance of the new films, ticket sales were down 30 percent compared with the same three-day period last year, when "Fast Five" debuted with a massive $86.2 million.
"Engagement" marks one of the worst openings to date for writer-director Nicholas Stoller and actor Jason Segel, who teamed to pen the relationship comedy. The pair have successfully collaborated together before on projects such as 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and last year's solid hit "The Muppets."
Outside of March's "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" — a low-budget film that never played in more than 500 theaters — Segel has proved to be a reliable box-office draw in recent years. The 32-year-old actor is best known for playing overgrown man-children in movies such as "Sarah Marshall" and 2009's "I Love You, Man," and was one of the main reasons moviegoers said they showed up to see "Engagement" this weekend.
However, moviegoers — like critics — were ultimately not enamored with the picture, assigning it an average grade of B-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Not surprisingly, the film appealed to a 64 percent female audience — but the crowd was a bit older than is typical for an Apatow film, as 57 percent were older than 30. The movie, also starring Emily Blunt, follows a couple whose engagement is derailed for half a decade due to career ambitions. Universal and Relativity Media spent about $30 million to make the film.
"It's not quite death, because the movie was made for a reasonable price and it has potential to do well through television and home video deals," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of distribution.
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is the latest production from England's Aardman Animations that has failed to resonate in a major way with American audiences. Known for creating "Wallace and Gromit" and "Chicken Run," Aardman's most recent production, last winter's "Arthur Christmas, grossed only $46 million domestically, though it raked in $100 million abroad. "Pirates" should follow that same trajectory, as it has already collected $63.7 million from 49 foreign countries.
"I think this movie will probably take a little bit longer to permeate here than overseas," said Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution president. "In Europe, there's no doubt about it that the Aardman brand is at the top of its game — their movies really resound in a big way there."
In the United States and Canada this weekend, the movie attracted a 76 percent family audience, who gave the well-reviewed film an average grade of B. The movie, featuring the voice of Hugh Grant as a pirate trying to become buccaneer of the year, had a budget of about $55 million.
"Safe," which stars Statham as a former cop on a mission to save a girl from international gangs, appealed mostly to older men this weekend. Its opening was a bit lower than that of the typical Statham film: Last year, the action star's "Killer Elite" started off with $9 million, while "The Mechanic" debuted with $11 million. Audiences who saw his most recent film graded it a tad higher than any of the weekend's other new releases, giving it a B-plus CinemaScore.
Lionsgate, which is releasing the film in the United States and Canada on behalf of film finance company IM Global, paid only for the film's prints and advertising costs.
"The Raven" received the most dismal critical reviews of any film hitting theaters this weekend — earning a paltry 22 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Moviegoers — 59 percent of whom were age 25 and older — were more kind, giving the film an average grade of B.
The movie stars Cusack as 19th century author Edgar Allen Poe, who ends up having to face re-enactments of the scary stories he penned. The film was made for $26 million by production and financing company Intrepid Pictures, but was later acquired by Relativity for about $4 million.
In limited debut, the dark comedy "Bernie" scored the best per-theater average of the year for a specialty release. The film, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black as an undertaker who commits a crime but is still popular in his Texas community, grossed $90,438 over the weekend. Playing in three theaters, that amounted to a strong location average of $30,146. The movie, which is being released by Millennium Entertainment, debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival last June and has since earned largely positive critical reviews.