Following a less-than-stellar Memorial Day weekend, this weekend's box office brought more lackluster news for the film industry as Paramount Pictures' "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," Universal Pictures' "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," and "Me Before You," from Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, debuted at cineplexes nationwide.
The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" sequel took the top spot with an estimated $35.3 million in the U.S. and Canada. Though meeting analyst expectations of $35 million to $40 million, it came in significantly behind its 2014 predecessor, which grossed a strong $65 million in its first three days.
"We're happy [with this performance]," said Megan Colligan, the studio's head of distribution. "Our movie definitely played more family than the last, [but] the nostalgic audience that came out last time, didn't pop out [in the first weekend] this time."
Produced by Michael Bay, the live action film stars Megan Fox, Will Arnett and Stephen Amell, among a host of others.
Critics and audiences appear split on the picture. While moviegoers gave it an A-minus grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore, only 37% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes rated the film favorably.
Internationally, it brought in an estimated $34 million, but has yet to open in the largest market abroad, China, where Paramount is looking to capitalize on the growth of the international film business. Chinese companies Alibaba Group and Dalian Wanda Group both pledged to invest in the film. It premieres there on July 2.
The studio hopes to recapture some of the success of its 2014 offering, which relied on computer graphics to bring Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael to the big screen. The first take captured $191 million in ticket sales domestically and $302 million internationally for a strong global total of $493 million. It cost $135 million to make.
Colligan believes the film will do well in coming weeks with more kids out of school and no other direct competition in sight.
"Turtles," however, is unfortunately the latest example of sequels struggling to measure up to the originals. Though studios have long relied on such retreads to pad their film slates and propel merchandising, this year multiple follow-ups have underwhelmed, including Walt Disney Co.'s "Alice Through the Looking Glass," Universal's "Neighbors 2" and "The Huntsman: Winter's War" and Paramount's "Zoolander 2."
Even the $80-million opening for Fox's "X-Men: Apocalypse" from last weekend was comparatively less than its predecessor. But in its second week it took the second spot at the box office with $22.3 million in ticket sales, just shy of analyst expectations of $25 million to $30 million. The film has grossed $116.5 million domestically to date.
In third place was Warner Bros.' "Me Before You" with an $18.3-million debut, the only film of the weekend to surpass analyst predictions. The romantic drama starring "Game of Thrones" actress Emilia Clarke was expected to only haul in $12 million to $14 million.
"This was a wonderful weekend for us," said Warner Bros.' Jeff Goldstein. "We were hoping to do $13 million to $15 million and it over delivered."
In the picture, Clarke plays a young woman who falls for a paralyzed man in her care, played by English actor Sam Claflin. Author Jojo Moyes wrote the screenplay based on her own bestselling novel of the same name.
Drawing what analysts called the date-night crowd, audiences gave it an A CinemaScore. Critics, however, were more split with only 55% of them on Rotten Tomatoes rating it favorably.
"The real story is that the film is well received by its core audience," said Goldstein. "There's no question that we set out to find a time to release the movie that was counterprogramming to the other movies."
"Me Before You" grossed $7.7 million internationally.
Disney's "Alice" took the fourth spot in its second week with an estimated $10.7 million for a domestic gross to date of $50.8 million. Globally, the picture has brought in $176.3 million.
Rounding out the top five was Sony's "The Angry Birds Movie." In its third week, the film based on the video game of the same name added another $9.8 million for a domestic gross of $86.7 million.
"Popstar," the last of the week's new releases, eked out an eighth-place finish with a disappointing $4.6 million. The R-rated comedy was projected to open to $7 million to $8 million.
"We'd love for there to be more gross," said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution. But he projects the picture will still be a success when considering other revenue streams outside of the theaters.
Starring Andy Samberg as a former boy band member who falls on hard times as a solo artist, "Popstar" is billed as a mock biopic in the tradition of "This is Spinal Tap" and "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."
With history as a teacher, musical parodies have proved to be a difficult sell for a general audience, as is the case with this one. But it did overperform with its target audience, young males, who made up 60% of the moviegoing audience.
The picture received a B CinemaScore and a respectable 78% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes [score] itself, this is both a critic- and audience-pleasing movie," Carpou said. "We're optimistic about where this ultimately goes."
Next week, Universal's "Warcraft" makes its U.S. debut as well as Lionsgate's "Now You See Me 2" and Warner Bros.' "The Conjuring 2" try to debunk the sequel curse.
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9:52 a.m. This post has been updated to include studio comments.