This image released by Universal Pictures shows Denzel Washington, left, and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "2 Guns." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Patti Perret)
LOS ANGELES — Denzel Washington has proved yet again that he is one of the few stars who can reliably draw moviegoers to the box office.
“2 Guns,” an action film in which the actor stars opposite Mark Wahlberg, was the No. 1 film over the weekend with a healthy opening of $27.4 million, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures.
Left in the dust was “The Smurfs 2,” a 3-D animated sequel that launched with a disappointing $18.2 million — only about half as much as the original collected over its opening weekend in 2011. The second movie, which opened last Wednesday, has now grossed an underwhelming total of $27.8 million domestically but will likely make up major ground overseas.
“2 Guns,” financed by production company Emmett/Furla Films for $61 million, marks another box office win for Washington. Will Smith, Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum have had big-budget flops this year, but Washington hasn’t had a major commercial misfire since 2007’s period piece “The Great Debaters.” The 58-year-old actor’s track record is especially strong when it comes to action films, and “2 Guns” moviegoers said in exit polls that he was the No. 1 reason they came to see the picture.
The movie also puts Wahlberg, 42, back on the right track after the actor suffered two flops this year in “Pain & Gain” and “Broken City.” In “2 Guns,” he and Washington play criminals-turned-undercover lawmen who are trying to catch a drug lord.
Surprisingly, the opening weekend crowd for “2 Guns” was, at 51 percent, a smidge majority female. Those who saw the movie were generally older — 77 percent were over 25 — and assigned the film an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
With its slow start in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, “The Smurfs 2” probably won’t gross the $142.6 million the original did domestically. But like the first film, the second should ultimately be successful financially because of international ticket sales, which made up 74 percent of the original’s $563.7 million worldwide tally. “The Smurfs” was created in 1958 by Belgian comic-book artist Pierre Culliford.
“We hoped for more domestically, but internationally, it’s well on its way to being a huge success,” said Rory Bruer, distribution president for Sony Pictures, which financed the $110 million production. “There have been a tremendous amount of PG-rated films released over the last several months, and that’s all I can point to as to why it was a bit soft here.”
“The Smurfs 2” launched in 43 foreign markets over the weekend and collected $52.5 million — down 4 percent from the original’s launch. The movie did best in Russia, where it grossed $5.4 million, and it collected a solid $4.2 million in France.
Although critics in the U.S. loathed the picture, audiences still enjoyed it, assigning the family film an average grade of A-minus. Roughly 63 percent of the crowd was female and the same percentage was younger than 25.
“All is good in our blue world. It’s a franchise we love and are going to continue forward in a big way with,” said Bruer, confirming that the studio will make a third “Smurfs” movie.
A24 opened its high school romance “The Spectacular Now” in two theaters in Los Angeles and two more in New York. With a total gross of $200,181, the film averaged $50,295 per location — one of the best averages for an independent release this year.
The movie, which has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, stars up-and-comers Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley as seniors who fall for each other before graduation. It attracted mostly those younger than 35 this weekend, said A24, which will bring the film to four additional cities next weekend.
Meanwhile, despite boasting the provocative combination of Lindsay Lohan and a porn star, James Deen, “The Canyons” failed to interest moviegoers. At least that was the case at the one theater where it opened, New York City’s IFC Center, which sold a paltry $15,200 worth of tickets, according to distributor IFC Films.
The movie was also available through video-on-demand and iTunes, and was performing “extremely well” there, IFC said.
“(W)e believe that the film will do most of its business in the digital realm,” Sundance Selects/IFC Films President Jonathan Sehring said in a statement. (He did not respond to a request for further comment.)
That “The Canyons” did not do better at the IFC Center is somewhat surprising given the publicity the micro-budget film has received. In January, before the picture had secured distribution, the New York Times Magazine published an in-depth story detailing the production’s on-set troubles.
The movie stars Deen as Christian, a young man trying to make his own low-budget film, and Lohan as his girlfriend, who is involved in a secret romance with the lead actor he has cast in his movie.
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