LINDSEY BAHR, AP Film Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It took the combination of James Bond and Charlie Brown to save the box office after a disastrous few weekends of flops. Both "Spectre" and "The Peanuts Movie" reinvigorated moviegoers who turned out in droves to check out the new fare, including buzzy limited-release titles like "Spotlight."
"Spectre" took an easy first-place spot with an estimated $73 million, according to Rentrak estimates Sunday, to become the second-biggest Bond opening of all time. The 24th film in the 53-year-old series stars Daniel Craig as the dapper spy and cost a reported $250 million to produce.
But "Spectre" failed to live up to the record-breaking standard set by "Skyfall," which debuted to $88.4 million in 2012 and went on to become the first film in the franchise to earn over $1 billion worldwide.
"We never expected it to open to the level of ‘Skyfall.’ It was a very different scenario. The competition was different, the weekend was different," said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution. "One thing I am certain of is that the Bond franchise is as healthy and strong as ever."
Distributor Sony, who co-produced the film with Eon Productions and MGM, tried to manage expectations going into the weekend, predicting an opening in the $60 million range.
"It’s still a great number," said Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior media analyst. "For a franchise that’s over 50 years old, it’s really an astounding achievement. Bond is still compelling and exciting to audiences."
The film has been playing internationally for two weeks, breaking records in the U.K. Reviews have been mixed stateside, and "Spectre," unlike "Skyfall," had competition in its first weekend in theaters with another beloved set of characters — Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
"The Peanuts Movie" provided a family-friendly alternative to James Bond’s guns and martinis and took second place with a strong $45 million. The film cost around $100 million to make.
Audiences, 70 percent of whom were families, gave "The Peanuts Movie" a strong A CinemaScore, suggesting that word of mouth will be strong for the animated pic.
The cross-generational appeal was no accident for the Fox marketing team, who were looking to appeal to all ages.
"I think it’s a combination of connecting with moviegoers who grew up with and were familiar with the Peanuts property coupled with getting kids excited about and introduced to Charlie Brown and Snoopy in a big screen way," said Chris Aronson, Fox’s president of domestic distribution. "We were everywhere. That’s what we thought we had to do to get through the noise of Bond to connect with moviegoers from 8 to 80 which I think we really were successful in doing."
Holdovers "The Martian," ”Goosebumps," and "Bridge of Spies" rounded out the top five, while new opener "Miss You Already," staring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, opened in 384 theaters to only $572,160.
"Spotlight," director Tom McCarthy’s film about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, was the strongest of the pack, opening to $302,276 from only five theaters.
"Brooklyn," a 1950s-set immigrant story starring Saoirse Ronan, took in a respectable $181,000 from five theaters this weekend after opening Wednesday. "Trumbo," starring Bryan Cranston, took in $77,229 from five theaters.
"We certainly needed this infusion of excitement into a marketplace that has been just lying there doing nothing almost for the past few weeks," Dergarabedian said. "This is good news for Hollywood to get things back on track."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Spectre," $73 million.
2. "The Peanuts Movie," $45 million.
3. "The Martian," $9.3 million.
4. "Goosebumps," $7 million.
5. "Bridge of Spies," $6.1 million.
6. "Hotel Transylvania 2," $3.6 million.
7. "Burnt," $3 million.
8. "The Last Witch Hunter," $2.7 million.
9. "The Intern," $1.8 million.
10. "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension," $1.7 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
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