Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson's new thriller No Good Deed sprinted past family offering Dolphin Tale 2 to win the North American box-office race with $24.5 million from 2,175 theaters, marking another win for producer Will Packer and Screen Gems.
Dolphin Tale 2, from Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros., came in on the low end of expectations, grossing $16.6 million for a second-place finish. It wasn't able to match the $19.2 million opening of Dolphin Tale in September 2011, never welcome news for a sequel. Dolphin Tale 2, however, did earn an A CinemaScore so it could have staying power (and the first film had the advantage of being released in 3D).
The other big headline was Marvel Studio and Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy, which has become the first film of 2014 to hit the $300 million mark domestically. Globally, the tentpole has crossed $600 million to finish Sunday with a total $611.5 million.
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also celebrated a milestone as it crossed the $300 million mark worldwide, including a domestic total of $181 million through Sunday.
And the late James Gandolfini's final film, The Drop, placed a strong No. 6 with $4.2 million from only 809 theaters.
Overseas, 20th Century Fox's YA film adaptation The Maze Runner opened ahead of its Sept. 19 U.S. launch to a strong $8.3 million from five markets, led by Mexico ($2.6 million) and pacing ahead of Divergent.
Heading into the weekend, tracking services were divided as to No Good Deed's potential, although more bullish observers had it clearing $20 million. The movie benefited from being the only new title in the market targeting black audiences and cost a modest $13 million to make (that doesn't include marketing costs). No Good Deed earned a B+ CinemaScore.
Still, the slide at the North American box office continued. Revenue was once again down from a year ago, when Insidious: Chapter 2 topped the chart with $40.3 million. Last weekend, revenue topped out at $64.7 million, the worst showing since just after 9/11, while year-to-date revenue is down 5.6 percent.
Packer, the force behind Screen Gems' Think Like a Man series and Obsessed, produced No Good Deed along with Lee Clay (Packer's credits also include Universal's Ride Along). Elba starred in Obsessed, which debuted to $28.8 million, while Henson is a lead in the Think Like a Man franchise.
Directed by Sam Miller (Luther), No Good Deed stars Henson as a district attorney turned stay-at-home mom living an ideal life in the suburbs until a charming convict (Elba) shows up at her door. Kate del Castillo and Henry Simmons co-star. Females fueled the film, making up 60 percent of the audience.
Dolphin Tale cost roughly $36 million to produce. Both the original and the sequel center around Winter, the real-life dolphin rescued by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, and her two young human friends, played by Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff (the actual Winter stars in both films).
This time out, the trio befriend a baby dolphin, Hope. The film also tells the story of Mandy, a rehabilitated dolphin released back into the wild. Charles Martin Smith returned to direct Dolphin Tale 2, reuniting with stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman and Kris Kristofferson. Newcomers include Lee Karlinsky, Julia Jordan and surfer Bethany Hamilton, playing herself.
The Drop, from Fox Searchlight and Chernin Entertainment, stars Gandolfini opposite Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Directed by Michael R. Roskam, the crime drama, set in Brooklyn, made its world premiere last weekend at the Toronto Film Festival.
Searchlight said The Drop played well in both art houses and suburban multiplexes, pointing to Gandolfini's draw. Next weekend, the film will be playing in north of 1,000 locations.
Here are the estimated top 10 films for the weekend of Sept. 12-14 at the domestic box office:
Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Weekend Total, Percentage Change, Cume
1. No Good Deed, 1/2,175, Sony/Screem Gems, $24.5 million
2. Dolphin Tale 2, 1/3,656, Warner Bros./Alcon, $16.6 million
3. Guardians of the Galaxy, 7/3,104, Disney/Marvel, $8 million, -22%, $305.9 million
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 5/2,957, Paramount, $4.8 million, -26%, $181 million
5. Let's Be Cops, 5/2,755, 20th Century Fox, $4.3 million, -23%, $73 million
6. The Drop, 1/809, Fox Searchlight, $4.2 million
7. If I Stay, 4/3,040, Warner Bros./New Line/MGM, $4.1 million, -27%, $44.9 million
8. The November Man, 3/2,702, Relativity, $2.8 million, -36%, $22.5 million
9. The Giver, 5/2,253, The Weinstein Co./Walden, $2.6 million, -23%, $41.3 million
10. The Hundred-Foot Journey, 6/1,943, Disney/DreamWorks, $2.5 million, -22%, $49.4 million