* "G.I. Joe" earns $100 million worldwide
* Costly action film leads N.America with $56.2 million
* "Julie & Julia" cooks up $20.1 million
(new throughout, recasts lead; adds quotes, analysis)
LOS ANGELES, Aug 9 A new action movie based on
the "G.I. Joe" line of toy soldiers crushed enemy forces at the
worldwide box office during the weekend, ending the three-week
reign of the sixth "Harry Potter" fantasy.
"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" sold about $100.3 million
worth of tickets, distributor Paramount Pictures said on
The three-day take of $56.2 million from the United States
and Canada ranks as the fourth-highest August opening ever, and
comes after the $175 million effects extravaganza had been
besieged by bad buzz for months.
The foreign component of $44.1 million -- from 35 markets
comprising 75 percent of international sales -- was led by
South Korea ($5.6 million). The film opened at No. 1 in two
countries not exactly favorable to American militarism, China
($4.8 million) and Russia ($4.6 million).
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" earned $31 million
worldwide, taking its total to $816 million. The North American
total of $274 million was bolstered by a fourth-place $8.9
million weekend. The film was released by Warner Bros.
Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc (TWX.N).
Besides "G.I. Joe," other new entries in North America
included Columbia Pictures' Meryl Streep culinary offering
"Julie & Julia" at No. 2 with a tasty $20.1 million, and indie
producer Relativity Media's horror-thriller "A Perfect Getaway"
at No. 7 with just $5.8 million.
Last weekend's North American champion, the Adam Sandler
comedy "Funny People," slid to No. 5 with $7.9 million, taking
the 10-day total for the $75 million comedy to a disappointing
$40.4 million. The film was released by Universal Pictures, a
unit of General Electric Co (GE.N).
"G.I. Joe" stars Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans as two
young soldiers recruited by the international G.I. Joe military
force to help save the world. It was directed by Stephen
Sommers of "The Mummy" fame.
While based on the venerable Hasbro Inc HAS.N action
figures, the film tips its hat to the multilateral series of
dolls relaunched in the 1980s rather than the American-oriented
military heroes coveted by boys in the 1960s and 1970s. (G.I.
is a generic term for U.S. soldiers.)
Given the wide awareness of the brand, fans were
underwhelmed by a trailer that premiered in February during the
Super Bowl football championship, the most-watched television
event of the year in the United States.
Paramount opted not to screen the movie in advance for
critics, a gambit often reserved for box office clunkers. In
the end, reviews were predictably bad but not as bad as those
for such recent releases as "G-Force" and "The Ugly Truth."
"I think it plays to real people," said Don Harris,
executive vice president of distribution at the Viacom Inc
VIAb.N-owned studio. "They check their disbelief at the door
and have a good time with the movie."
Surveys indicated the film played best in the American
heartland -- anywhere "east of Beverly Hills and west of
Manhattan island," Harris said. It also was especially popular
with Hispanic and black moviegoers, he said.
Overall, male moviegoers accounted for 60 percent of the
audience, with an even split either side of 25 years.
Based on the film's better-than-expected $22 million
opening on Friday, Paramount had forecast a $60 million
weekend. But Saturday sales fell more steeply than expected.
Harris said he was not troubled by the decline.
The record for an August opening was set in 2007 by "The
Bourne Ultimatum" with $69.3 million, while "Rush Hour 2"
kicked off with $67.4 million in 2001, and "Signs" with $60
million in 2002. All ended up with more than $220 million.
Columbia Pictures offered some effective
counter-programming with "Julie & Julia," which pulled in older
women. Streep plays Julia Child, while Amy Adams stars in a
parallel story as a young woman who seeks to replicate the
noted TV chef's culinary exploits.
"We're finding that men love it too," said Rory Bruer,
president of worldwide distribution at the Sony Corp (6758.T)
He expected the $38 million film, which was directed by
Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle"), to simmer in theaters for
(Writing and reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Bill