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‘Huntsman’ gets iced by ‘Jungle Book’ at weekend box office

‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’

Emily Blunt, left, and Charlize Theron star in “The Huntsman: Winter’s War.”

(Giles Keyte / Universal Pictures)

Disney’s live-action breakout “The Jungle Book” retained the top spot at the box office, icing out a host of holdovers and Universal Pictures’ new release “The Huntsman: Winter’s War.”

The Jon Favreau-directed update of the Rudyard Kipling tale grossed another estimated $60.8 million in the U.S and Canada, meeting analyst’s $60-million projections. That’s a minimal decline of only 41% from opening weekend’s $103.3 million. After just 10 days in release, “The Jungle Book” is the fourth-biggest movie of the year with a domestic total of $191.5 million, powered by strong reviews and a largely positive response from moviegoers indicated by an A grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore.

As expected, Universal’s follow-up to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” didn’t draw audiences in as massive numbers. The film took in $20.1 million in ticket sales, well below analyst projections of $25 million. Such a debut is also considerably less than its predecessor, which launched with $56 million in its first weekend on its way to a worldwide total of $396.6 million.

“It seemed like a great idea to expand the universe, and you couldn’t ask for a better cast,” said Nick Carpou, the studio’s president of domestic distribution.

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The new movie, which attracted women (as 61% of the audience) to the multiplexes, boasts star power in Chris Hemsworth, plus Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt as warring queen sisters. But it lacks the pull of Kristen Stewart, who played Snow White in the first installment. The part-prequel, part-spinoff was also hampered by poor reviews, unexpectedly heavy competition and a lack of significant audience interest.

Moviegoers gave the picture a B-plus CinemaScore while only 17% of Rotten Tomatoes critics rated it positively.

“I’m not a critic myself so it’s hard to know what expectations there are among people who write critiques. But in my world, the best critic is the one who buys the ticket and sees your movie,” Carpou said.

Though the film did hit the $100-million mark worldwide, “Huntsman” is an uncharacteristic domestic miss for Universal, which enjoyed an industry-leading run last year with “Jurassic World,” “Furious 7" and other hits. The studio managed its costs this time around with an estimated production budget of $115 million, $55 million less than the first film. A portion of the spending was covered by China’s Perfect World Pictures.

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The movie was directed by newcomer Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who earned an Oscar nomination for his visual effects work on “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

Aside from “Jungle Book” and “Huntsman,” moviegoers found interest in holdovers “Barbershop: The Next Cut” ($10.8 million for a cumulative of $36 million), “Zootopia” ($6.6 million for a cumulative of $316.4 million) and “The Boss” ($6.1 million for a cumulative of $49.5 million).

On the limited-release front, Lionsgate introduced its multicultural action-comedy “Compadres” to $1.4 million from 368 locations. Starring Omar Chaparro, Joey Morgan and Erick Elías, the film landed in the overall ninth spot.

Roadside Attractions opened the Tom Hanks film “A Hologram for the King.” Based on the Dave Eggers novel about an American businessmen who ventures to Saudi Arabia for a deal, the film pulled $1.2 million from 401 locations for a 10th-place finish.

Also, Bleecker Street and Amazon Studios unveiled “Elvis and Nixon,” starring Michael Shannon as the king of rock ‘n’ roll and Kevin Spacey as the Republican president. The dramatic retelling of a meeting between the two figures grossed $456,793 from 381 locations.

In holdovers, The Weinstein Co.’s “Sing Street” added $132,901 in its second week. The expansion from five to 25 theaters brings the John Carney-directed love story to a cumulative $217,859. The movie starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton will continue to expand next week.

Further crowding cineplexes Friday will be Warner Bros.’ “Keanu’ starring comedy duo Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, Open Road’s “Mother’s Day” with Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts and Focus Features’ animated flick “Ratchet and Clank.”

Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.

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