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It's a 'Sausage Party' at the box office

Watch the trailer for "Sausage Party."

Though Warner Bros.’ hit super-villain mashup “Suicide Squad” dominated the domestic box office for the second weekend in a row, all eyes are on the performance of Sony’s animated “Sausage Party.” The for-grown-ups-only picture pulled in a surprising estimated $33.6 million in the U.S. and Canada, well above analyst projections of $20 million. For a film that cost only $19 million to make, such a performance is stellar.

"It's really fun to see all that's been put into [this film] pay off in such a big way," said Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution chief. "The filmmakers delivered something so totally fresh and innovative and off-the-wall and funny."

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“Sausage Party” is an original computer animated picture about talking grocery store items that realize what horrors await when humans purchase them. It stars the voices of Seth Rogen (as a hot dog) and Kristen Wiig (as a hot dog bun) as well as Salma Hayek, Edward Norton and Jonah Hill.

Sony, which is distributing the film with Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, projected a more conservative $15-million performance, in part because of the lack of comparable films, Bruer said.

"That was one thing that made it difficult to guestimate the opening," he said. "It is so unique and totally stands on its own."

Audiences and movie critics have taken to the R-rated comedy. Moviegoers gave it a B CinemaScore while 82% of the reviews on the site Rotten Tomatoes were positive.

Aiding in the film's performance was a unique marketing campaign emphasizing its off-color humor and twisted "Toy Story"-esque premise that the studio felt would appeal to a core audience of millennials. With a focus on digital spaces and social media, the campaign garnered an audience of mostly men (57%) with a 50-50 split of people over and under 25 years old.

The film's surprising performance is a direct reflection of audience interests, Bruer said.

"I think it says that they long for fresh material, things that are creative and innovative, something different. But that's if you get it right," he said. "And [we] did."

Maintaining the top spot at the box office was "Suicide Squad" from Warner Bros. with an estimated $43.8 million after opening to an August record-breaking tally of  $134 million in U.S.-Canada ticket sales last week. Coming in below analyst expectations of $47 million, representing a week-to-week decline of 67%, the film's performance could foreshadow some trouble for the studio.

While a 65% decline or worse would've followed the pattern set by other recent DC-Warner Bros. releases, including the 2013 Superman film "Man of Steel," "Suicide Squad's" slightly increased drop is a potential barometer for the health of the studio's DC superhero franchise as it competes with Disney's Marvel Studios. A strong second-round gross would've been welcome news for  Warner Bros., which has bet big on its lineup of upcoming DC comic book movies, including "Wonder Woman" and "Justice League." But poor reviews and a middling CinemaScore of B-plus appear to have been a not-so-good sign for "Suicide Squad."

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," which suffered from mostly negative reveiws, fell nearly 70% from its massive $166-million first-weekend gross in March.

The $175-million "Suicide Squad" has grossed a domestic total of $222.9 million and international total of $242.5 million to date.

Coming in third place was Disney's "Pete's Dragon." The family-friendly animated flick opened to $21.5 million domestically, though analysts projected the film would overtake "Sausage Party" with more than $25 million.

"We're super, super proud of this movie," said Dave Hollis, Disney's distribution chief. "We know from recent history with family films that there is an opportunity to put together a nice run."

"Pete's Dragon" is the latest remake of a classic Walt Disney Co. property. The movie, with a budget of $65 million, is based on a 1977 film not considered a top-tier Disney canon entry. The original, about a child who befriends a mythical creature seen only to him, was a musical that used a hybrid of live-action filmmaking and drawn animation, in the vein of "Mary Poppins."

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Disney has had a successful run with its live-action fairy-tale remakes, including this year's big hit "The Jungle Book" (grossing $947.8 million worldwide). But Disney has not been immune to Hollywood's rocky summer months at the box office, fielding duds such as "Alice Through the Looking Glass" and "The BFG." In a summer filled with major tent-pole pictures from the studio, Hollis said they wanted to also "dust off" a less popular title that they could produce comparatively cheaper and still make money.

Reviews are mainly positive for the picture, from audiences, 66% of which were families, and critics. Moviegoers gave it an A CinemaScore while 85% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes rated it positively.

"Pete's Dragon" has pulled in an estimated $5.1 million internationally thus far from countries including Russia, Italy and the UK.

Universal's "Jason Bourne" landed in fourth place in its third week with $13.6 million, bringing its domestic gross to date to $126.8 million. The action movie, a part of a franchise from the studio, has also grossed $119.4 million internationally for a worldwide gross topping $246 million.

Rounding out the box office's top five spots is STX Entertainment's "Bad Moms," with $11.5 million in its third week. Having made $71.5 million domestically to date, the film is on pace to become the studio's first $100-million hit.

The weekend’s other new release, which opened in about half as many theaters as its animated competitors, is Paramount Pictures’ “Florence Foster Jenkins.” The film about a New York socialite and heiress who pursues a singing career despite a lack of natural talent took in an estimated $6.6 million, coming in below analysts’ $8-million projections.

But the PG-13 film starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant and based on a true story, is targeted at older moviegoers who do not tend to turn up in huge crowds for a film’s opening weekend. As such, the comedy-drama, the latest film by the British director Stephen Frears (“Philomena,” “The Queen”) is expected to do well in the weeks to come.

In limited release, CBS Films and Lionsgate opened the Chris Pine crime drama “Hell or High Water" in 32 theaters in order to build positive buzz for the positively reviewed movie. The picture pulled in an estimated $592,000 for a per screen average of $18,500.

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson

UPDATES:

12:37 p.m.: This article was updated with demographic information from the studio.

This post originally published at 9:30 a.m.

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