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The Purge tops US box office ahead of Google comedy The Internship

The Purge

Story by Jack Foley

ETHAN Hawke thriller The Purge has topped the US box office in yet another surprise weekend.

Going into the weekend, Google comedy The Internship, which reunites Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson for the first time since Wedding Crashers, had been expected to take No.1.

But that comedy only placed fourth with a disappointing $18.1 million, behind Universal holdover Fast & Furious 6 at two (with $19.8 million in its third weekend) and magician heist movie Now You See Me (at three).

It means that this is the second successive weekend where blockbuster titles with star names attached have failed to hit targets, and smaller films have prevailed.

Last weekend, Now You See Me opened ahead of Will Smith’s After Earth, which continued to die a death at the US box office.

But the success of The Purge is perhaps more remarkable given that it was shot on a micro budget and wasn’t expected to perform that well against bigger tentpole titles.

The Ethan Hawke star vehicle, which is set in a future where one night a year all crime is legal, took a stunning $36.4 million, double that of The Internship and way more than its $3 million production cost.

Pre-release tracking had predicted a debut of somewhere in the $20 million range. But word of mouth and a smart marketing campaign means that The Purge is also now Hawke’s biggest opening in North America.

A delighted Universal president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco commented: “We didn’t expect anything near this result. The social media campaign really paid off, as well as the traditional campaign.”

The Internship‘s relative failure to perform also marks a disappointment for its director, Shawn Levy, who suffered his own worst opening in a decade (after 2003’s Just Married, which debuted to $17.5 million).

Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, the film had also been made closely with Google, where washed-up salesmen Vaughn and Wilson become interns.

Chris Aronson, Fox president of domestic distribution, put a brave face on things, however, by pointing towards strong feedback from test audiences and exit viewers. He predicted that it could still enjoy strong word of mouth success.

Two more box office milestones were reached this weekend in the US. Fast & Furious 6 has now sped past the $200 million mark in the US alone, while JJ Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness also jumped that mark, grossing $11.7 million in its fourth weekend for a total of $200.1 million.

Elsewhere, Fox’s 3D animated family film Epic rounded out the top five with $12.1 million in its third weekend, thereby taking its US total to $84.2 million.

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