Sony's remake of 1984's "The Karate Kid" debuted at No. 1 for the weekend with a whopping $56 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The big-screen adaptation of the 1980s TV series "The A-Team" came in at less than half that, the 20th Century Fox release opening in second place with $26 million.
After three weekends at No. 1, DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek Forever After" slipped to No. 3 with $15.8 million. The animated hit raised its domestic haul to $210.1 million, becoming the fourth movie released this year to top $200 million.
With a relatively modest production budget of $40 million, "The Karate Kid" far exceeded the studio's expectations. Early on, Sony executives would have been happy if the movie opened to half its $56 million debut weekend, said Rory Bruer, the studio's head of distribution.
Those expectations began to rise once the studio realized it had a crowd-pleaser on its hands, Bruer said.
"It's just an unmitigated grand slam hit," said Bruer, who also worked on distribution for the 1984 version. "I loved the original 'Karate Kid,' but they took this beloved title, and they made it relevant, fresh and absolutely exciting."
The big opening for "The Karate Kid" gave Hollywood a boost after a weak start to the summer season. "Iron Man 2" opened big the first weekend in May, but the box office has lagged since then.
With his first lead role, 11-year-old Smith had an opening weekend that stacked up well against the track record of his superstar father, Will Smith, who has had only two debuts bigger than "The Karate Kid" ("I Am Legend" at $77.2 million and "Hancock" at $62.6 million). Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith are producers on "The Karate Kid."
"It's like, 'Who's the biggest star now, dad?'" said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "It proves the box-office apple doesn't fall far from the money tree in that household."
Chris Aronson, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox, said the momentum of a strong weekend should benefit "The A-Team," which received high marks in exit polls from the under-25 crowd.
"It's good that the industry finally has an up weekend, so it's nice to be a part of that," Aronson said. "We're very optimistic that we're now in an upswing in the business and that we're going to play and play as our word of mouth spreads."
Hollywood looks to build on its momentum next weekend as Pixar Animation goes back to its roots with "Toy Story 3," the latest sequel to the 1995 hit that was the first feature-length computer-animated film.
In limited release, IFC Films' documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" opened strongly with $171,500 in seven theaters, for an average of $24,500 per cinema. That compared to a $15,288 average in 3,663 theaters for "The Karate Kid."
Also debuting well in limited release was Roadside Attractions' drama "Winter's Bone," which took in $87,000 in four theaters for a $21,750 average. The top dramatic prize winner at January's Sundance Film Festival, "Winter's Bone" stars Jennifer Lawrence as a teenager desperately searching for her missing father in the backwoods crime culture of the Ozark Mountains.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Karate Kid," $56 million.
2. "The A-Team," $26 million.
3. "Shrek Forever After," $15.8 million.
4. "Get Him to the Greek," $10.1 million.
5. "Killers," $8.2 million.
6. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," $6.6 million.
7. "Marmaduke," $6 million.
8. "Sex and the City 2," $5.5 million.
9. "Iron Man 2," $4.6 million.
10. "Splice," $2.9 million.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue Pictures is owned by Relativity Media LLC; Overture Films is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp.