LOS ANGELES » “Deadpool,” Marvel’s R-rated twist on superhero movies, grossed an estimated $135 million in the U.S. and Canada in its first three days, all but ensuring that the film will more than double analysts’ estimates of $70 million in ticket sales for the four-day Presidents Day weekend.
The antihero Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds) flew past former box-office champ “Kung Fu Panda 3” plus new releases “How to Be Single” and “Zoolander 2,” the latter of which finished well below expectations in fourth place.
The massive opening for “Deadpool” places the film ahead of the previous record holder for not only Presidents Day weekend but also all February openings, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which debuted to $85.2 million last year. “Deadpool” also stands as the biggest opening for any R-rated movie, surpassing the $91.8 million launch of “The Matrix Reloaded” in 2003.
“Every once in awhile, something comes along that hits a nerve and becomes instantly in the cultural zeitgeist,” said Chris Aronson, head of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox. “That’s what ‘Deadpool’ has done.”
The action-comedy stars Reynolds as Wade Wilson, who acquires self-healing powers after being diagnosed with cancer. Reynolds first appeared as Deadpool in Fox’s 2009 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
“Deadpool” isn’t a typical Valentine’s weekend flick, but Aronson says it is a love story at its core.
“In a way, it is a (romantic comedy), but just not in a way you’ve seen before,” he said. “We’ve taken the rom-com world and comic books and put them together.”
The film was Fandango’s daily top pre-seller for the last two weeks. Audiences gave it an A grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore; 84 percent of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes have given it a positive rating.
The production budget for “Deadpool” was $58 million, relatively low for a superhero film.
Fox’s “Kung Fu Panda 3” slid to second place in its third week. It pulled in an estimated $19.7 million through Sunday. The studio projects it will pass the $100 million mark domestically on Presidents Day. The film already has made more than $100 million in China.
Coming in third was “How to Be Single,” released by Warner Bros. in association with New Line Cinema and MGM. The R-rated comedy took in an estimated $18.8 million through Sunday. It should meet analyst projections of $21 million to $23 million in domestic ticket sales by the end of the holiday.
“How to Be Single” centers on new college graduate Alice (played by Dakota Johnson), who breaks off her four-year relationship to explore life in New York City. Once in the Big Apple, her party-girl co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson) vows to teach her how to be single. Leslie Mann plays Alice’s sister, Meg, who is on the fast track in her career as an OB-GYN. But she’s feeling qualms about not being married or having children and fears time is running out.
An estimated 82 percent of the film’s audience was female. They gave the picture a B, according to CinemaScore, but critics thought otherwise. Only 48 percent of those on Rotten Tomatoes liked the Christian Ditter-directed picture.
The movie, which cost $37 million, also stars Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm and Jason Mantzoukas as some of the men who come into the women’s lives.
According to Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. executive vice president of distribution, the studio believes word of mouth will carry the film into the next couple of weeks.
“Zoolander 2,” released by Paramount Pictures 15 years after the first film, debuted in fourth place. It pulled in an estimated $15.7 million from Friday through Sunday and will likely finish the four-day weekend with about $18 million in ticket sales, far below projections of $25 million.
The sequel, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, finds models Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) thrust back into the spotlight after living in seclusion for years. After attending a fashion event in Rome, the estranged friends join Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz), a special agent who needs their help to save the world’s most beautiful people from death.
The original “Zoolander” came out in 2001 and grossed just $45 million domestically, but it developed a devoted following on home video. “Zoolander 2,” which cost about $50 million to make, received a C-plus CinemaScore. Only 23 percent of Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a positive rating.
Rounding out the top five was the Oscar-nominated “The Revenant” from Fox. It pulled in an estimated $6.9 million from Friday through Sunday. Since its Christmas Day limited release, the film has grossed $159.2 million.
Documentarian Michael Moore’s latest, “Where to Invade Next,” opened in about 300 theaters. Released by former Radius-TWC executives Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, along with Alamo Drafthouse Chief Executive Tim League, it grossed slightly more than $1 million in its debut.
The film follows Moore, the liberal provocateur behind “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine,” as he “invades” other countries to find solutions to America’s problems in education, criminal justice and health care.
After making the rounds on the festival circuit, “Where to Invade Next” has been well received by critics, 75 percent of whom rated it positively on Rotten Tomatoes.
Debuting this week will be Focus Features’ “Race,” Sony’s “Risen” and A24’s “The Witch.”
©2016 Los Angeles Times