Marvel antihero Deadpool could not be stopped at the weekend box office as his movie flew past other newcomers "How to Be Single" and "Zoolander 2." The picture from 20th Century Fox also unseated the two-week box office leader "Kung Fu Panda 3."
"Deadpool," an R-rated twist on the superhero genre, grossed a massive estimated $135 million in the U.S. and Canada just the first three days of the Valentine's-President's Day weekend. With a conservative projection of another $15 million on Monday, the film is poised to take in $150 million in its weekend debut — more than doubling analysts' most liberal estimates of $70 million.
"Every once in awhile something comes along that hits a nerve and becomes instantly in the cultural zeitgeist," said Chris Aronson, head of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox. "That's what 'Deadpool' has done."
Such a massive opening places the film ahead of the previous President's Day weekend and February record holder, "Fifty Shades of Grey," which set a high bar when it debuted to $85.2 million last year. "Deadpool" also now stands as the biggest debut for an R-rated movie ever, a record "The Matrix Reloaded's" $91.8-million launch claimed in 2003.
The action-comedy stars Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, who acquires self-healing powers after being diagnosed with cancer. Reynolds first appeared as Deadpool in Fox's 2009 offering "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
"Deadpool" isn't the typical Valentine's weekend flick, but Aronson says it is a love story at its core.
"In a way it is a [romantic comedy], but just not in a way you've seen before," he said. "We've taken the rom-com world and comic books and put them together."
The film was highly anticipated by fans, making it Fandango's daily top seller for the last two weeks. Audiences gave the film an A grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Critics have also taken a liking to the superhero flick with an 84% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The production budget for "Deadpool" was $58 million, relatively low for a superhero film.
Fox's fellow property "Kung Fu Panda 3" slid to second place in its third week. It pulled in an estimated $19.7 million through Sunday. The studio projects it will take an another $6.4 million on President's Day for a total gross of $100.3 million since its debut.
Coming in third, "How to Be Single," released by New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in association with Warner Bros. The R-rated comedy took in an estimated $18.8 million through Sunday. It should meet analyst projections of $21 million to $23 million in domestic ticket sales by the end of the holiday.
"How to Be Single" centers on new college graduate Alice (played by Dakota Johnson) who breaks off her four-year relationship to explore what life has to offer in New York City. Once she arrives in the Big Apple, her party-girl coworker Robin (Rebel Wilson) vows to teach her how to be single. Leslie Mann plays Alice's sister, Meg, who is on the fast track in her career as an OB-GYN. But she's feeling qualms about not being married or having children and fears time is running out.
Audiences (82% female) favored the film with a B CinemaScore, but critics thought otherwise. Only 48% of those on Rotten Tomatoes liked the Christian Ditter-directed picture.
The film, which cost $37 million, also stars Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm and Jason Mantzoukas as some of the men who come into the women's lives.
According to Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. executive vice president of distribution, the studio believes word of mouth with carry the film into the next couple of weeks.
Coming out 15 years after its predecessor, "Zoolander 2," from Paramount Pictures, debuted in fourth place. Pulling in an estimated $15.7 million through Sunday, it is poised to fall far below its projections of $25 million through Monday with only $18 million.
The sequel, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, finds models Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) thrust back into the spotlight after living in seclusion for years. After attending a major fashion event in Rome, the estranged friends join Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz), a special agent who needs their help to save the world's most beautiful people from death.
"Zoolander 2," which cost about $50 million to make, has not been well received by audiences or critics. Moviegoers gave it a C-plus CinemaScore, and only 23% of Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a positive rating.
The original "Zoolander" was released in 2001 and grossed just $45 million in its full domestic run, but it developed a devoted following after its release on home video.
Rounding out the top five was the Oscar-nominated "The Revenant" from Fox. It pulled in another estimated $6.9 million since its Christmas Day limited-release debut. It has grossed $159.2 million to date.
On the limited-release front, documentarian Michael Moore's latest, "Where to Invade Next," opened in about 300 theaters. It's getting its release from former Radius-TWC executives Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, along with Alamo Drafthouse Chief Executive Tim League. It grossed a little more than $1 million in its debut.
The film follows Moore, the liberal provocateur behind "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine," as he "invades" other countries to find solutions to America's problems including those in education, criminal justice and healthcare.
After making a number of rounds on the festival circuit, "Where to Invade Next" has been well received by critics, 75% of whom rated it positively on Rotten Tomatoes.
Debuting next week will be Focus Features' "Race," Sony's "Risen" and A24's "The Witch."
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