(TheWrap.com) - The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are back on top after two decades, and the heroes on the half-shell returned in style, racking up an estimated $65 million in their first three days to conquer the U.S. box office.
That knocked Marvel's superhero space romp “Guardians of the Galaxy” from the top spot after just a week. Peter Quill, Groot and Rocket Raccoon held well in their second week and brought in $41.5 million for Disney, but the weekend belonged to everyone's favorite wise-cracking mutant reptiles, Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo.
With producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebsman giving the gang a muscular special-effects update, “Ninja Turtles” blew past the expectations of analysts, who had the turtle tale opening at around $45 million.
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It was the second straight week that the No. 1 film exceeded projections, and for the second consecutive week the struggling summer box office got a much-needed lift. The overall weekend was up roughly 17 percent over the comparable frame last year, though the season is still down at least 15 percent from last's year's record-breaker.
It also was the second major score of the summer for Bay and Paramount, coming in the wake of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the season's only $100 million opener and the lone 2014 film to hit $1 billion mark at the global box office. Bay, the studio and Nickelodeon, where an animated version of “Ninja Turtles” is a long-running hit kids show, teamed to produce the $125 million franchise reboot. They celebrated Sunday by announcing that there would be a “Ninja Turtles 2,” set for June 3, 2016.
It worked. The out-sized opening made a blowout of what was expected to a be a close weekend race with “Guardians” and provided an exclamation point on the return of the turtles. The three-day opening haul is bigger than combined $57 million total of the three “Ninja Turtle” movies that opened at No. 1 in 1990, 1991 and 1993.
Warner Bros.’ found-footage disaster saga “Into the Storm” did the best of three other wide-opening films. The twister tale took in $17.5 million for third place, beating out DreamWorks’ Helen Mirren foodie drama “Hundred-Foot Journey,” which finished fourth with $11.2 million.
“Step Up All In,” the fifth installment in dance franchise, sashayed to $6.5 million for Summit Entertainment. That put it in sixth, behind the Scarlett Johansson sci-fi tale “Lucy,” which was fifth with $11.2 million and is bearing down on $100 million domestically in its third week for Universal.
The critics weren't keen on the “Ninja Turtles” – it's at 40 percent positive on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes – but that didn't matter to audiences. Opening weekend crowds at the 3,845 theaters where the PG-13-rated was playing gave it a decent “B” CinemaScore.
The audience broke down 61 percent male and 45 percent under 25. The latter figures means Paramount marketers scored a bulls-eye, attracting the kiddie crowd and sizable swath of older fans for whom the turtles were a nostalgia trip.
“Transformers” alum Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner and Whoopi Goldberg star, with Johnny Knoxville voicing Leonardo.
“Guardians of the Galaxy,” which was in a market-high 4,080 theaters, fell off roughly 56 percent from its August-record $93 million opening last week. That's in line with the second-week drop-offs of other Marvel superhero movies this summer, but the well-reviewed “Guardians” didn't get the word-of-mouth boost it might have, probably due to the “Ninja Turtles” over-performance. Still, “Guardians” is already at an impressive $176 million domestically.
“Into the Storm,” directed by Steven Quale, landed just about where the studio and analysts had projected it would. Women (58 percent) and moviegoers over the age of 25 (71 percent) made up most of the audience at the 3,434 theaters, and they gave the twister thriller a “B” CinemaScore.