'Furious 7' rules Friday box office; 'Paul Blart' surprisingly strong

'Furious 7' rules Friday box office; 'Paul Blart' surprisingly strong
Kevin James in latest "Paul Blart" vehicle. (Matt Kennedy, Sony Pictures)

"Furious 7," which recently passed $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, looks poised to dominate the domestic box office for a third straight weekend, bringing in an estimated $8.3 million on Friday.

But the surprise so far this weekend has been the relative strength of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2," Sony's PG-rated sequel to the 2009 Kevin James comedy that is riding the enthusiasm of families and younger viewers.

"Paul Blart" segwayed to an estimated $7.3 million on Friday, a stronger-than-expected result given the general critical derision that has greeted the release.

With James reprising his role as an incompetent security guard, the Vegas-set comedy, which wasn't screened in advance for critics, is projected to gross $22 million for the weekend. Sony said the movie cost $30 million to make.

"This is the opposite of a critical darling but it's tailor-made for audiences who know what to expect," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst at Rentrak.

A Rentrak survey showed that the movie was tracking favorably with children under 18, who gave it 4-1/2 out of five stars.

The original "Paul Blart" bowed in 2009 with an opening weekend haul of $31.8 million, and went on to gross $146.3 million in North America.

"Furious 7," the latest installment in Universal's immensely popular car-racing franchise, is expected to hold on to the No. 1 spot with a projected gross of $25.5 million for the weekend, bringing its North American total to more than $290 million, according to Rentrak.

"Unfriended," a social-media-themed horror movie, came in third Friday with an estimated $6.8 million. The Universal release is on track to gross $16 million for the weekend.

In its fourth weekend of release, the animated "Home" is projected to earn $10 million for the weekend, bringing the Fox-Dreamworks Animation release's domestic total to more than $140 million.

"The Longest Ride" is expected to come in fifth for the weekend, with a projected total of $6.8 million. Fox's romantic drama -- starring Scott Eastwood, son of Clint -- is based on the Nicholas Sparks novel and is set in the world of champion bull riding.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT