Box office: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' No. 1 again; 'Hot Pursuit' has soft debut

#boxoffice: @Avengers adds $77.2M in 2nd weekend, @hotpursuitmovie has soft $13.3 M launch

It was a cold weekend for the comedy "Hot Pursuit" as the superhero sequel "Avengers: Age of Ultron" maintained its mighty grip on the box office, adding an estimated $77.2 million in the U.S. and Canada for one of the highest second-weekend grosses of all time.

Although the Marvel tent-pole film fell 60% from its opening, it still surpassed the second-weekend grosses for all films, including Fox’s “Avatar” ($75.6 million), with just one exception: its 2012 predecessor, “The Avengers” ($103.1 million).

"Age of Ultron," which now has made $312.9 million domestically, is far outpacing the other blockbuster of 2015, "Furious 7." That franchise film had collected $152.5 million after its sophomore weekend and has stayed in the top 10 since its April 3 release.

"Ultron" continued its dominance overseas as well. It added $68.3 million in its third weekend, raising its international total in 90 territories to $562.4 million — and the film has yet to open in key markets. “Ultron” is scheduled to open in China on Tuesday and in Japan on July 4.

Directed by Joss Whedon, “Age of Ultron” follows superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as they battle technological villain Ultron (James Spader). Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

The film, which cost $250 million to make, has been propelled by that star power as well as strong audience and critical response: It received a solid A rating from audience polling firm CinemaScore and has an 85% positive rating on critic site Rotten Tomatoes.

By contrast, MGM and New Line's comedy "Hot Pursuit," which is being released by Warner Bros., fell short of tracking expectations of $15 million to $20 million. It collected a soft $13.3 million in the U.S. and Canada.

The comedy, which cost $35 million to make, follows an uptight cop (Reese Witherspoon) who has to help protect a drug lord's wife (Sofia Vergara). Both Witherspoon and Vergara served as producers for the film, which is directed by Anne Fletcher ("27 Dresses"), and the stars tried to use their social media followings to promote the comedy — heavily.

The film marks Witherspoon's return to the big screen following her Oscar-nominated portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in "Wild." Vergara, the Colombian-born actress with a large fan base, is best known for her role as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC's "Modern Family."

An estimated 62% of moviegoers were female. About 82% of the audience was older than 25.

Reviews and word of mouth did not bode in the film's favor. It garnered a paltry 6% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a C-plus grade on CinemaScore. Audience members younger than 18, however, gave the film an A; those between 18 and 24 gave it an A-minus.

Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president, said the film saw strong interest in the Southeast, the South and the Southwest, where turnout was particular high among Latino moviegoers.

“Areas in the East, which tend to be review-driven, were lighter than what we wanted,” Goldstein said. “But our audience was older -- and older female audiences don’t rush out the first weekend to see a film.”

The Mother’s Day holiday on Sunday could help give the film a slight boost.

“Hopefully we’ll find an audience that will propel us in the next week,” Goldstein added.

Coming in at third was Lionsgate’s “Age of Adaline,” which fell just 10% from the previous weekend. It added $5.6 million and raised its cumulative total to $31.5 million in the U.S. and Canada since its April 24 opening.

In its sixth weekend of release, Universal Pictures’ “Furious 7” came in at No. 4. It added $5.3 million, bringing its domestic total to $338.4 million. The film has pulled in $1.46 billion worldwide.

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” rounded out the top five, adding $5.2 million. The Sony comedy has made $58 million domestically.

The Jack Black-starring comedy "The D Train" launched in about 1,000 theaters with just $425,000, for a per-screen average of just $451. The film, which IFC Films picked up at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, follows a middle-aged man (Black) who becomes obsessed with getting the most popular guy in his high school class (James Marsden) to attend their high school reunion.

Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight’s “Far From the Madding Crowd” surged 361% in its second weekend after expanding to 99 theaters. The film, which stars Carey Mulligan and is based off the Thomas Hardy Novel, made $760,700, for a per screen average of $7,684. The film has collected about $1 million to date.

The studio said the film is playing best to art and specialty house audiences; however, it also is doing well in upscale multiplexes. It has strong reviews and word-of-mouth, reflected in an A-minus CinemaScore.

The well reviewed artificial intelligence tale "Ex Machina," from A24, was up 52% after it rolled out into about 2,000 theaters. The film, which came in sixth at the box office, collected $3.5 million over the weekend, raising its total haul to $15.7 million.

Also in limited release, Sony Pictures Classics’ biopic "Saint Laurent" made $36,136 in four theaters for a per screen average of $9,034.

The box office is up 5.8% year-to-date. Analysts have said this summer will likely see records with a robust lineup that includes action films such as "Jurassic World” as well as female-driven flicks such as "Pitch Perfect 2.”

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Updated

May 10, 10:56 a.m.: This post has been updated throughout to include audience demographic data, studio comments, historical context and other details.

This article original published at 9 a.m.

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