Is there such a thing as a movie that's too violent? At the box office, apparently not. Exhibit A: 'Immortals,' which, despite extreme gore that includes bloody entrails flying at the viewer in 3D, opened at no. 1 with an estimated $32.0 million. That's a stunning feat for a movie that faced competition from a new Adam Sandler comedy, had little star power of its own, belonged to a genre of sword-and-sandals movies that hasn't been popular lately, and comes from an indie distributor with only one other big hit under its belt. Oh, and did we mention the flying entrails?
Actually, the intentionally repulsive combat scenes were probably a big selling point. Given such recent movies as 'Conan the Barbarian' and 'The Eagle' (movies in the same genre as 'Immortals' that failed to dent the box office), you have to go all the way back to 'Clash of the Titans' and '300' for ancient-world action blockbusters, and 'Immortals' director Tarsem Singh dismissed those movies as overly tame. It's doubtful that anyone would find 'Immortals' tame, which must have helped overcome the movie's box office negatives - its biggest stars were Mickey Rourke and future Superman Henry Cavill, its marketing didn't really hint at the movie's over-the-top visual spectacle, and its distributor, Relativity, has previously struck box office gold only with 'Limitless.'
It's no wonder that pundits thought they were generous predicting an opening for 'Immortals' in the low 20s. The $32 million estimated gross comes as a welcome surprise for Relativity, but even that isn't all good news. After all, Friday's opening take of $15 million should have heralded a total weekend gross of $36 million, but the film was already slipping by a third as of Saturday. That quick decline suggests that the movie may not have strong legs, especially if teen girls drag their boyfriends to see 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1' when it opens this coming weekend. At that rate, 'Immortals' may have a hard time recouping its estimated $75 million budget from domestic receipts alone, though overseas, the movie has already earned at least $36 million more.
Moviegoers apparently found the combat carnage in 'Immortals' less stomach-churning than the spectacle of Adam Sandler in drag being wooed by Al Pacino. 'Jack and Jill' opened in second place with an estimated $26.0 million. That makes it the first of Sandler's adult comedies in almost 14 years (since 'The Wedding Singer') to open with less than $30 million. Yet it actually did a little better than pundits predicted, which was about $24 million. The lowballing came not from the almost universally negative reviews, since Sandler movies are critic-proof, but from the fact that the multiplex already has two other comedies competing for the same audience in 'Tower Heist' and 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas'
Given the weaknesses on paper of 'Immortals' and 'Jack and Jill,' many box office prognosticators expected last week's champ, 'Puss in Boots,' to threepeat. Indeed, the cartoon did very well, losing just 23 percent of last week's audience and nabbing another estimated $25.5 million. That landed the film in third place, though at just $500,000 behind 'Jack and Jill,' 'Puss' could wind up in second place once final numbers are released on Monday. In three weeks, the 'Shrek' spinoff has earned $108.8 million.
'Tower Heist' slipped two spots to fourth place, marking a 45 percent decline to an estimated $13.2 million. That's about what was expected for the middling comedy release, whose two-week total stands at $43.9 million.
Opening in fifth was Clint Eastwood's 'J. Edgar,' with an estimated $11.5 million. That was also right on track for the Oscar-hopeful biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The leading man's star power and the director's prestige were supposed to sell the picture to adult audiences, but the film's weak reviews made that difficult. The movie's limited-release opening in seven theaters on Wednesday (before expanding to 1,910 theaters over the weekend) pulled in an initial $53,000; last year, Eastwood tried a similar ploy with 'Hereafter' and netted $60,000, toward an eventual lifetime gross of just $32.7 million. 'J. Edgar' could beat that, but with four more prestige movies opening in the next two weeks, Eastwood's top G-man has his work cut out for him.
Overall, box office was up about 25 percent from a week ago. Still, figures for the year remain more than 3 percent behind last year, with 2011 domestic grosses to date at about $8.75 billion, compared to $9.05 billion a year ago.
The full top 10:
1. 'Immortals,' $32.0 million (3,112 screens), new release
2. 'Jack and Jill,' $26.0 million (3,438), new release
3. 'Puss in Boots,' $25.5 million (3,903), $108.8 million total
4. 'Tower Heist,' $13.2 million (3,370), $43.9 million
5. 'J. Edgar,' $11.5 million (1,910), $11.6 million
6. 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas,' $5.9 million (2,875), $23.2 million
7. 'In Time,' $4.2 million (2,591), $30.7 million
8. 'Paranormal Activity 3,' $3.6 million (2,776), $100.8 million
9. 'Footloose,' $2.7 million (2,215), $48.9 million
10. 'Real Steel,' $2.0 million (1,758), $81.7 million
[Photos: Relativity, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros.]
Gallery | Moviefone 2011 Holiday Movie Preview
'The Descendants'Release Date: Nov. 16 limited
Right from the start, Alexander Payne's long-awaited follow-up to 'Sideways' asks viewers to accept two fairly hard-to-swallow premises: (1) that Hawaii can be a depressing place to live, and (2) that anyone who looks, talks, and charms like George Clooney could wake up to discover that his wife has been sweating up someone else's sheets. Moviefone's advice: sit back, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the show. With a fabulous cast firing on all cylinders (watch for Matthew Lillard's career-rescuing turn) and a story that weaves together humor and heartbreak without veering into schmaltz, this may be the year's best movie -- and the picture to beat on Oscar night. -- Michael Hogan
'Arthur Christmas'Release Date: Nov. 23
Aardman Animation, the gents behind those classic 'Wallace and Gromit' cartoons, take a break from claymation for this 3D CGI animated adventure set in the North Pole. When an important gift fails to reach its Christmas tree destination, it's up to Santa's bumbling son Arthur, his cranky Grandsanta, and a team of hi-tech elves to make sure that present gets there in time. Expect lots of sly British slapstick with the voice talents of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy. -- Eric Larnick
'Hugo'Release Date: Nov. 23
Based on the children's book by Brian Selznick, 'Hugo' is director Martin Scorsese's kids movie by way of Cahiers du Cinema. As much about film preservation and the craft of filmmaking as mystery and adventure, 'Hugo' has plenty of layers for both parents and children to enjoy. It also features some of the best and most inventive 3D ever put onscreen. -- Christopher Rosen
'The Muppets'Release Date: Nov. 23
It has quickly become clear that this is Muppets world, and y'all are just living in it. The lovable creatures from the mind of Jim Henson return to the big screen with Disney money and some of the hottest young comedians as co-stars (notably Jason Segel, who also wrote the script). The plot sees the once-fabled Muppets reuniting after several years apart, in an effort to save their beloved 'Muppet Show' theater. There's no need for the adults in the crowd to feel self-conscious about their nostalgia, however, because the theater will be packed a with a whole new generation of kids ready to laugh at Fozzie Bear's fart shoes. -- Eric Larnick
'The Artist'Release Date: Nov. 23 limited
It would be fitting, in this age of CGI-obsessed 3-D blockbusters, that a movie like 'The Artist' wins the Oscar for Best Picture. Why? Because 'The Artist' is black and white movie shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio (think: your old television set). Oh, yeah: it's also silent. Yep: no words. It's a silent movie about a silent movie star (Jean Dujardin) coming to terms with his lack of relevance in an era of talkies. Did I mention it's a French movie, too? It is. As well as quite brilliant. -- Mike Ryan
'My Week With Marilyn'Release Date: Nov. 23 limited
Buoyed by an Oscar-worthy lead performance from Michelle Williams, 'My Week With Marilyn' combines old Hollywood glamour with the type of love story that could only happen in the movies. That it actually reportedly happened to Colin Clark (played here by Eddie Redmayne) is part of the charm of the Simon Curtis-directed film: in 1956, Clark spent a week falling in love with Marilyn Monroe (Williams). Featuring strong supporting work from Kenneth Branagh (as Sir Laurence Olivier), Dominic Cooper, Dame Judi Dench and Emma Watson in her first post-'Harry Potter' performance, 'Marilyn' could be this year's version of 'The King's Speech': a British-infused drama that wins over audiences and Oscar voters alike. -- Christopher Rosen
'A Dangerous Method'Release Date: Nov. 23 limited
Kirk Lazarus would surely approve of Keira Knightley's decision to go "full nutjob" in the unhinged opening scene of David Cronenberg's kinky study of Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. As the film progresses, Knightley slowly regains her sanity even as the good doctor (portrayed with spring-wound intensity by Michael Fassbender) questions his own, testing the limits of his own sexual morality and the patience of his mentor, Viggo Mortenson's Sigmund Freud. Less weird than most Cronenberg creations, but, still: pretty weird. -- Michael Hogan
44. 'We Bought a Zoo'
This one's probably not going to wind up on too many "Best Of" lists because, well, it’s about a family that buys a zoo, and that’s corny. (And, yes, this is a corny movie.) But everyone in this movie is just so darn nice -- so much so that it’s nearly impossible not to be won over by a slightly pudgy Matt Damon trying to do something nice for, well, everyone. (There's also a very tall Patrick Fugit is in this movie, which is also nice.) Damon plays Benjamin Mee, who -- after the passing of his wife -- buys a partially deserted zoo in an effort to (A) help his troubled family and (B) help the zoo. Yes, this film is sap. But at least it’s tasty sap with an excellent soundtrack. -- M.R.
Release Date: Dec. 2 limited
Don't be fooled by the ostensible subject matter or the NC-17 rating: director Steve McQueen's sex-addiction movie is about as sexy as his last collaboration with star Michael Fassbender, the stomach-turning prison-starvation-strike film 'Hunger.' This time, at least, Fassbender maintains full fighting weight as Brandon, a man whose all-consuming appetite for porn and commercial sex blocks him off emotionally from his nutty sister (Carey Mulligan) and douche bag boss (James Badge Dale). If that all sounds too cold and repellent to endure, however, don't be so sure: Fassbender's Oscar-ready performance and McQueen's canvas-like compositions make this a fascinating journey into the soul of a badly hurting man. -- Michael Hogan
'New Year's Eve'Release Date: Dec. 9
A night of too many stars? From Katherine Heigl to Lea Michele to Ashton Kutcher to Robert De Niro, 'New Year's Eve' features someone for everyone. That doesn't necessarily mean this one will be good -- after all, it's a spiritual sequel to the derided 'Valentine's Day' -- but you'd be hard pressed to find a bigger collection of famous people in one place this holiday season. -- Christopher Rosen
'The Sitter'Release Date: Dec. 9
'Pineapple Express' director David Gordon Green offers up what is basically a remake of the '80s classic 'Adventures in Babysitting.' This time around the genders are flipped, so instead of getting a romantic adventure with timeless teen crush Elisabeth Shue, it's a foul-mouthed sex-obsessed babysitter played by Jonah Hill -- in the last film to feature him as an overweight schlub. Even if you're not part of this movie's intended frat-house audience, you kind of need to see it for that historical reason. -- Eric Larnick
'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'Release Date: Dec. 9 limited
Based on the popular British spy novel by John le Carre, 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' follows a retired British spy (Gary Oldman), who returns to work to help hunt down a mole. With a cast that includes Oldman (already garnering Oscar buzz), Tom Hardy, Colin Firth and John Hurt, and Tomas Alfredson ('Let the Right One In') directing, this could be the classy spy movie you've been waiting for. It also doesn't hurt that Oldman and Hardy can sate your 'Dark Knight Rises' appetite until next summer. -- Alex Suskind
'W.E.'Release Date: Dec. 9 limited
From director Madonna -- yep, that Madonna -- comes 'W.E.,' a time-spanning historical drama about the romance between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy), and a modern-day woman (Abbie Cornish) obsessed with the couple. 'W.E.' has gotten rung over the coals by festival audiences this fall, but if there is anyone who can whip it into theatrical shape, it's probably Harvey Weinstein, who's distributing the film domestically. -- Christopher Rosen
'Young Adult'Release Date: Dec. 9 limited
'Juno' duo Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody reunite for 'Young Adult,' a dark comedy about a children's book author and former high school mean girl (Charlize Theron) who returns to her hometown to stalk a lost love. Patton Oswalt and Patrick Wilson co-star, in what will hopefully be the caustic comedy highlight of the fall season. Moviefone HQ is all in on this one, especially since Cody has rarely failed as a screenwriter. ('Jennifer's Body' is vastly underrated, haters!) -- Christopher Rosen
'We Need to Talk About Kevin'Release Date: Dec. 9 limited
Simultaneously haunting, visceral and suspenseful, 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' is a sensory masterpiece. Fueled by astounding performances from Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and young actor Ezra Miller, you won't be able to take your eyes off the screen -- though at times you might want to. Miller is Kevin, a hateful child who grows into a violent teenager who commits a heinous crime. Based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, 'Kevin' deals with the grief and anguish of Kevin's mother (Swinton) and the fallout from his actions. -- Chris Jancelewicz
'Alvin and the Chipmunks 3'Release Date: Dec. 16
The Chipmunks and the Chipettes are livin' it up -- tropical-style, on a cruise liner -- when their rambunctious hi-jinks get them stranded on the Isle of Scilly. They'll have to come together to survive the native terrain and make it back to their owner, Dave Seville. Expect to hear Chipmunk-ified covers of Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Yolanda Be Cool and Willow Smith. Also, expect to hear a theater packed with laughing, squealing tykes. If you don't get why the 'Chipmunks' movies are so huge, you're either single or an incredibly selfish parent. -- Eric Larnick
'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows'Release Date: Dec. 16
The sequel to Guy Ritchie's 1998 blockbuster, 'A Game of Shadows' finds Sherlock (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) taking on criminal mastermind -- and Holmes arch-nemesis -- Professor Moriarty (
Lane PryceJared Harris). It feels like RDJ was born to play Holmes, and although the critical reviews on the first movie were mixed, fans around the world didn't mind: 'Holmes' grossed over $520 million worldwide. -- Alex Suskind
'Carnage'Release Date: Dec. 16 limited
Based on the famed by play Yasmina Reza, 'Carnage' focuses on two Brooklyn couples (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) who meet after their sons get into a fight. Over the course of one afternoon -- played out in real time -- the pairs fight, fight, fight and fight some more. Directed by Roman Polanski, 'Carnage' is bitter and funny at times, but too often shrill and pointless. Look for Waltz -- a previous Oscar winner for 'Inglourious Basterds' -- to get some awards heat for his buttoned-up businessman who speaks his mind with extreme prejudice. -- Christopher Rosen
'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol'
Release Date: Dec. 16 IMAX; Dec. 21 wide
Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his super-spy team go on the run again in 'Ghost Protocol.' If you thought Cruise was getting a little long-in-the-tooth to keep sprinting away from explosions, 'M:I 4' snagged Jeremy Renner as a bit of young(er) blood as well as 'Incredibles' director Brad Bird, making his live-action debut with major flare. 'Ghost Protocol' features some thrilling action set-pieces, including the much buzzed-about skyscraper run set on the world's tallest building. It remains to be seen if this is Hunt's last lap, but you know Cruise will throw himself full throttle into the movie's dangerous stunt-work. -- Eric Larnick
'The Adventures of Tintin'
Release Date: Dec. 21 (also in IMAX 3D)
From Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson comes the highly anticipated 'The Adventures of Tintin,' a motion capture spectacle that could change the face of movies. Based on the comic books by Belgian artist Herge, 'Tintin' not only has fans worldwide, but looks like a return to form for Spielberg as a populist action director. After all, his last film was 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,' and even he has some reservations about that one. -- Christopher Rosen
'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'Release Date: Dec. 21
Based on the best-selling series by the late Stieg Larsson, 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' follows embattled journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and researcher Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who team to solve a decades-old murder that might have ties to the present day. David Fincher directs what is already on seemingly everyone's must-see list. Toss in Trent Reznor's score, three eerie viral websites and one unbelievably awesome trailer and this feel-bad movie of the holiday season could be one of its biggest hits. -- Alex Suskind
'In the Land of Blood and Honey'Release Date: Dec. 23 limited
Eager to extend beyond Brangelina, Oscar-winning actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie tackles the Bosnia war in her first outing as director. Written by Jolie herself, 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' focuses on a Serbian soldier who re-encounters one of his Bosnian victims when she's held captive at his camp. A controversial relationship blossoms, and -- judging from the trailer -- this is far from your traditional war romance. -- Chris Jancelewicz
'War Horse'Release Date: Dec. 25
Steven Spielberg's latest live-action film looks like it's going to take the horse genre one hoof further. (Couldn't resist.) Based on a Michael Morpurgo novel, 'War Horse' follows the story of a horse sold to the cavalry in World War I. Despite being too young to enlist, his teenage former owner enlists to rescue his friend. This is Spielberg's realm: heavy drama, great war, friendship at whatever cost, lush cinematography and John Williams music. You probably had a tough time keeping your eyes dry during the trailer, so you can only imagine what the finished product will be like. 'War Horse' is on the short list of Best Picture contenders. -- Chris Jancelewicz
'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'Release Date: Dec. 25
Based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' focuses on a young boy (newcomer and former 'Jeopardy' champ Thomas Horn) who lost his father (Tom Hanks) in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and must solve a mystery he's left behind. Co-starring Sandra Bullock and Max Von Sydow and directed by Stephen Daldry, 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' could be one of the bigger Oscar movies release this year. After all, Daldry is three-for-three when it comes to Best Director nominations, and Bullock and Hanks are no strangers to Academy favor. -- Christopher Rosen
'The Iron Lady'Release Date: Dec. 30 limited
Not like you need another reason to see the role Meryl Streep could win her third Oscar for, but here you go: In 'The Iron Lady,' Streep plays Margaret Thatcher, the one-time British Prime Minister, whose life has always been shrouded in secrecy. This movie apparently avoids the potential political ennui by focusing on the price she paid for power, as well as the struggles she faced as a woman in the typically male world of government. -- Chris Jancelewicz
Follow Moviefone on Twitter
Like Moviefone on Facebook
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman