LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The medieval battlefield epic “Beowulf” ushered in a new age at North American movie theaters, opening at No. 1 with almost half the ticket sales for the new box office champ coming from 3-D theaters.
Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis’ innovative hybrid of live-action and animation sold $28.1 million worth of tickets during its first three days, domestic distributor Paramount Pictures said on Sunday.
Internationally, the adaptation of the old English poem is being handled by Warner Bros. Pictures, which reported sales of $17 million from 13 markets, led by Britain ($4.4 million, No. 2) and South Korea ($3.7 million, No. 1).
“Beowulf” was the largest release in modern 3-D history, playing in 742 theaters across North America, accounting for about 20 percent of the print count. Sales from those theaters contributed just over 40 percent of the total haul.
Big-screen firm Imax Corp. said the film earned $3.6 million from 84 theaters equipped with its technology, or about 13 percent of the total. The contribution is usually about 5 percent to 6 percent, said Greg Foster, chairman and president of its Imax Filmed Entertainment unit.
Another firm, Real D, reported sales of $8 million from 638 locations.
“It just shows the potential of what 3-D can be in the future,” said Don Harris, Paramount’s executive vice-president of distribution. The Viacom Inc.-owned studio had been hoping for an opening in the $25 million range, he added.
The $150 million film stars British actor Ray Winstone as a dashing warrior around the 6th century. Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins also make up the cast, their characters presented in a mix of animation and real life. Zemeckis’ last directing foray into this genre, “Polar Express,” opened to $23 million three years ago and finished with $177 million.
Jerry Seinfeld’s animated “Bee Movie” slipped to No. 2 with $14.3 million in its third weekend. Paramount also distributed the DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc production, which has earned $93.9 million to date.
The Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe drama “American Gangster,” released by General Electric Co.’s Universal Pictures, fell one to No. 3 with $13.2 million, also in its third weekend. Its total stands at $101 million.
The holiday comedy “Fred Claus” (Warner Bros.), starring Vince Vaughn as Santa’s older brother, slipped one place to No. 4 with $12 million in its second weekend, for a total of $35.8 million. The fantasy drama “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (20th Century Fox), starring Dustin Hoffman as a toy impresario, opened at No. 5 with $10 million. Fox said the opening met its expectations, and it hoped the family-oriented movie would play strongly over the holidays.
Two literary adaptations, both starring Spanish actor Javier Bardem, entered the top 10. Miramax Films’ “No Country For Old Men,” Joel and Ethan Coen’s version of the thriller by Cormac McCarthy, jumped eight places to No. 7 with $3.1 million after boosting its theater count in its second weekend. Currently playing in just 148 theaters, it will expand to 800 next weekend.
New Line Cinema’s “Love in the Time of Cholera,” director Mike Newell’s adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s tale of unrequited love, opened at No. 10 with just $1.9 million.
Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema are units of Time Warner Inc. 20th Century Fox is a unit of News Corp. Miramax Films is a unit of Walt Disney Co.