(EW.com) -- In a close race that saw each of the top three films swap places between Friday and Sunday, animated smash "Despicable Me 2" once again won the weekend at the box office.
The $76 million family film from Universal and Illumination Entertainment fell 46 percent from its debut weekend to $44.8 million, pushing its total all the way to $229.2 million after only 12 days.
"Despicable Me 2" has easily asserted its dominance over Disney's "Monsters University" in the last two weekends. Though "Monsters" has been in theaters twice as long (it opened June 21), its $237.8 million domestic total is only $8.6 million more than "Despicable Me 2."
Universal's minion-filled comedy should easily overtake its rival release sometime this week. Worldwide, "Despicable Me" is about to surpass "Monsters University" as well, as the films have earned $472.4 million and $474.2 million, respectively.
In second place, Adam Sandler's first-ever sequel, "Grown Ups 2," opened to a great $42.5 million. The $80 million Sony comedy started off slightly better than its 2010 predecessor, "Grown Ups," which debuted with $40.5 million on the way to a $162 million domestic finish. If estimates hold up, "Grown Ups 2" will stand as Sandler's second-best opening ever behind 2005′s "The Longest Yard," which debuted to $47.6 million.
Sandler has proven himself to be one of the most consistent box office draws in Hollywood over the last 15 years, during which time he has accrued 12 live-action hits that grossed more than $100 million, as well as the animated winner "Hotel Transylvania," which topped out at $148.3 million.
But after back-to-back live-action misfires with 2011′s "Jack & Jill" ($74.2 million) and 2012′s "That's My Boy" ($36.9 million), many questioned whether Sandler's brand of comedy was still viable at the box office. "Grown Ups 2's" impressive debut should mitigate those concerns — and put the comedy on track to become Sandler's 14th $100 million movie.
According to Sony, audiences for "Grown Ups 2" were 53 percent female (this follows "White House Down" and "World War Z" — two other films with unexpectedly majority-female audiences), and 54 percent below the age of 25. Crowds surveyed by CinemaScore issued the film a ho-hum "B" grade, and critics were largely dismissive.
"Pacific Rim" opened in third place with $38.3 million, a difficult start for Warner Bros.' $190 million monsters vs. robots adventure, though the best ever debut for director Guillermo del Toro.
Headed into the weekend, "Pacific Rim's" sales on Fandango were outpacing those of "World War Z," which recently opened with $66.4 million. On Thursday, "Pacific Rim" garnered an eye-popping $3.6 million from shows beginning at 7:00 p.m.
But the film, like many others that have targeted geeky crowds, proved extremely front-loaded in its box office returns. After a $14.6 million Friday, "Pacific Rim" fell 13 percent on Saturday to $12.5 million, and Warner Bros. expects it will fall another 15 percent today to $10.9 million. If the film's domestic total follows the same trajectory as its opening weekend, "Pacific Rim" will top out right at $100 million.
That's why Warner Bros. is depending on strong word of mouth to carry the film financially. "We've got critics that love it, we've got audiences — male and female — that love it," says Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution, who points to "Pacific Rim's" encouraging "A-" CinemaScore grade from crowds (that were 61 percent male) as a sign that the film may hold up well in weeks to come. "What we need to do is go aggressively into week two and broaden that audience base. That's our job."
"Pacific Rim" fared particularly well in 3-D, which accounted for 50 percent of its opening-weekend gross, the highest ratio all summer (though still a far cry from the 70 percent 3-D shares that were typical in 2009 and 2010). The film also played well in 331 IMAX theaters, where it earned $7.3 million — a full 19 percent of its opening-weekend haul.
Internationally, "Pacific Rim" scored $53 million from 38 markets this weekend, bringing its global launch to $91.3 million altogether. The film fared best in Korea, where it started with $9.6 million, and Warner Bros. expects it will play well throughout Asia during its run.
In fourth place, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy's buddy cop comedy "The Heat" dipped 44 percent to $14 million in its third weekend. The film surpassed the $100 million mark on Friday and has now earned $112.4 million total against a slim $43 million budget.
"The Lone Ranger" wasn't so lucky. The $225 million Western, which last week stumbled with only $47.9 million in its first five days, plummeted 62 percent in its second weekend to $11.1 million, which gives the film $71.1 million and puts it on pace for a finish below $100 million. Despite "The Lone Ranger's" disappointing run, a Disney exec this week said the studio remains committed to a "branded tentpole strategy."
1. "Despicable Me 2" -- $44.8 million
2. "Grown Ups 2" -- $42.5 million
3. "Pacific Rim" -- $38.3 million
4. "The Heat" -- $14 million
5. "The Lone Ranger" -- $11.2 million
Two indie releases also made waves in limited release this weekend. Fox Searchlight's "The Way Way Back" expanded into 79 theaters and grossed $1.1 million, giving it a robust $14,051 per theater average — and guaranteeing that more theater owners will want to show the film on their screens soon.
"Fruitvale Station's" performance was even more impressive. The film, which stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Oakland resident who was detained and shot by a police officer in 2009, earned $377,000 from only seven theaters, yielding a blazing $53,898 average.
"Fruitvale's" plot and racial themes coincide with the national conversation (and controversy) surrounding George Zimmerman, who was last night found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin. The debate sparked by the Zimmerman trial's verdict could propel "Fruitvale Station," a Weinstein release, even further than its impressive debut already suggests.
Next week, four new releases are hitting theaters, and "Turbo," "The Conjuring," "Red 2" and "R.I.P.D." will all compete for box office supremacy.
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