By Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times
---- — LOS ANGELES — “Evil Dead” showed the most life at the box office this past weekend, leaving its rivals as casualties while claiming No. 1.
The fourth entry in the horror franchise debuted with a healthy $26 million, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. (That figure includes ticket sales from Thursday evening, when the movie collected $1.8 million.)
Heading into the weekend, pre-release audience polling indicated that the scary film would be in a tight race with holdover “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” But “Evil Dead” ended up beating the big-budget action flick, which collected $21.1 million during its second weekend in theaters.
“G.I. Joe,” in fact, was only tied for second place: The movie shared the runner-up position with the animated family film “The Croods,” which has grossed $125.8 million since its release three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the only other film to open over the weekend, a 3-D version of 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” started with a respectable $18.2 million, putting the Steven Spielberg-directed film at No. 4 at the multiplex.
Most of those intrigued by “Evil Dead” were adult men: 56 percent of the film’s opening weekend crowd was male and 56 percent was older than 25.
Though the film has received positive reviews, especially for a horror picture, audiences that saw it this past weekend didn’t love it, assigning it an average grade of C-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
Still, Rory Bruer, distribution president for Sony, said he wasn’t worried that bad word of mouth would harm the movie’s ticket sales in the coming weeks.
“We did so many word-of-mouth screenings on this film before it opened, and people love it,” Bruer said. “I think that speaks volumes for the film in regard to its longevity.”
“Evil Dead” tells the story of five friends in a remote cabin in the woods, where they encounter a demon that attempts to possess them. The film is a new iteration of Sam Raimi’s original, which became a cult classic after its release 30 years ago. The latest installment already is by far the highest-grossing in the series: The third entry, 1993’s “Army of Darkness,” grossed $11.5 million, while the second took in $5.9 million and the first $2.4 million.
The new “Evil Dead” may not do particularly well internationally, however. The $17 million production — which Sony’s TriStar label and FilmDistrict acquired from Ghost House Pictures in 2011 — launched in 21 foreign markets this past weekend and collected just $4.5 million.
Although the reformatted “Jurassic Park” managed to attract moviegoers in solid numbers over the weekend, it doesn’t appear likely to match the success of a 3-D version of “The Lion King.” That animated film, released in late 2011, collected $94 million domestically — a figure no 3-D re-release since has come close to rivaling.
It was inexpensive for Universal Pictures to convert the 20-year-old classic to 3-D, however: The studio said the process cost about $10 million. Next summer, the studio will release “Jurassic Park 4” more than a decade after the franchise’s third entry hit theaters.
“I think this weekend result shows how beloved the franchise is,” said Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal. “The word of mouth and press response has been so terrific that I think it sets up the fourth film well.”
This weekend, the crowd for the film about an amusement park full of threatening dinosaurs was 55 percent male. Roughly 54 percent was older than 25.
Unlike a 3-D version of “Titanic,” which made $285 million overseas last year, the new “Jurassic Park” doesn’t seem poised to become an international hit. This past weekend, the film opened in seven foreign countries — including Russia and Australia — and sold just $3 million worth of tickets.
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