A pair of Christians in Sony's "Risen," a sorceress in A24's "The Witch" and a barrier-breaking track star in Focus Features' "Race" were no match for the foul-mouthed superhero of Fox's "Deadpool." In its second week, the Ryan Reynolds-led picture grossed an estimated $55 million in the U.S and Canada to land atop the box office for a second week.
With such numbers, "Deadpool" met the lower end of analyst expectations, following its record-setting debut over the long Presidents-Valentine's Day weekend when it amassed $150 million in domestic ticket sales ($132 million in its first three days). That easily made it the biggest opening ever for an R-rated film in North America.
To date, the film has pulled in an estimated $235.4 million domestically with a strong international showing as well. Worldwide, the total now sits at a whopping $491.9 million, all of which is impressive given its relatively low production budget of $58 million.
Landing in second place and beating the three new releases was Fox and DreamWorks Animation's holdover "Kung Fu Panda 3." Four weeks since its debut, the cartoon pulled in another estimated $12.5 million. Its estimated gross to date is $117.1 million domestically.
Faring the best of the new releases was "Risen," from Sony Pictures' Affirm label, which took the third spot. The biblical epic, which cost about $20 million to make, met analyst expectations of $10 million to $15 million with $11.8 million in ticket sales.
"We're very, very happy with our results," said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution. "This certainly is a genre, with regards to faith-based films, that we've embraced and it's a big part of our DNA now."
Starring, among others, Joseph Fiennes of "Shakespeare in Love," "Risen" tells the story of two Romans trying to find out what happened to Jesus' body after the Crucifixion when his tomb is discovered empty.
True to the history of other religious films that directly court a specific audience, those who saw "Risen" liked it, giving it an A-minus grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Critics, however, were more split, with only 59% rating the picture favorably on Rotten Tomatoes.
Affirm Films specializes in Christian movies. They had an unexpected hit on their hands when 2015's "War Room" grossed nearly $68 million in North America.
A24's "The Witch" debuted in fourth place with an estimated $8.7 million in the widest release ever for studio best known for critically acclaimed pictures such as "Ex Machina" and "Room."
Released in 1,800 theaters and targeting horror genre fans, the film came in below analyst projections of $10 million. It did, however, exceed the studio's extremely modest forecast of $3 million.
"The Witch," a favorite from last year's Sundance Film Festival, follows a family in 1630s New England besieged by forces of black magic. It was written and directed by Robert Eggers, and was acquired by A24 for $1 million.
Audiences and critics differ on the reception of the film. While Rotten Tomatoes critics overwhelmingly rated it positively (88%), moviegoers gave "The Witch" a C-minus CinemaScore.
Performing the worst of the new releases was Focus Features' "Race," which took the sixth spot behind Warner Bros.' "How to Be Single's" $8.2 million. The biopic of track and field legend Jesse Owens garnered $7.3 million, coming in just shy of analysts' $8-million projections.
Stephan James of "Selma" plays the famed African American athlete who faces off against the racism of Adolf Hitler's Germany during the 1936 Olympics.
Audiences gave the movie an A CinemaScore while 60% of Rotten Tomatoes critics rated it positively.
Next week, the box office will continue to crowd with three more new releases opening widely. Fox's "Eddie the Eagle" and Open Road Films' "Triple 9" will attempt to unseat "Deadpool." Also vying for that spot is Lionsgate's "Gods of Egypt," which came under fire last year when promotional posters and a trailer were released revealing that the cast consisted of primarily white people to play characters set in the African country. The studio and director apologized for the racial miscasting.