'300' sequel rules box office with $45.1M debut

NEW YORK (AP) -- The shirtless warriors of the "300" sequel "Rise of an Empire" ravaged the post-Oscars box-office weekend with a domestic debut of $45.1 million but an even bigger international haul of $87.8 million.

Seven years after the original "300" became an unlikely, ultra-stylish, blood-soaked sensation, Warner Bros.' 3-D follow-up showed considerable might at the box office. While "300: Rise of an Empire" didn't come close the North American debut of Zack Snyder's 2007 original ($70.9 million and without the benefit of 3-D ticket prices), it performed like a blockbuster overseas.

"Rise of an Empire," which with flexed torsos and R-rated bloodshed further chronicles the ancient battles of the Greeks and Persians, led a busy box-office weekend that also saw an Academy Awards bump for "12 Years a Slave" and one of the highest per-screen averages ever for Wes Anderson's European caper "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Though "300: Rise of an Empire" is excessively macho, Eva Green - the film's fiercest presence - may have drawn females for what was always going to be a male-centric release. Whereas the female audience for the first "300" was only 29 percent, it was 38 percent for "Rise of an Empire."

"Talk about female empowerment," said Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., said of the "Casino Royale" actress.

Noting the popularity of 3-D and IMAX screenings for the movie, Goldstein credited the visual panache of producer Snyder (Noam Murro took over directing), who drew directly from Frank Miller's graphic novels: "He brings a lot to the screen that mesmerizes you."

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, said the "300" franchise "translates to virtually every culture. Every country can appreciate the visuals of these movies."

The week's other new wide release, 20th Century Fox's animated "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," opened in second with $32.5 million. Though the performance was better than some expected, it's a relatively low total for a film that cost about $140 million to make.

The film is based on the cartoon about a time-traveling boy and his brilliant dog from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show." Some of the family film market was likely taken by Warner Bros.' hit "The Lego Movie," which added $11 million in its fifth weekend.

The Liam Neeson thriller "Non-Stop" slid to third place with $15.4 million in the Universal release's second weekend after topping the box office last week.

In limited release, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" made an astounding average of $200,000 on four screens in New York and Los Angeles. Fox Searchlight will expand the film by 65 to 75 theaters next week.

The specialty studio also celebrated the best picture Oscar win for "12 Years a Slave" with a notable bump of $2.2 million, even though it was released on DVD and video-on-demand Tuesday. That was up 123 percent on the prior weekend for the film, which first opened in November.

"12 Years a Slave" drew even more international interest, where it made $9.1 million as moviegoers flocked to see the Academy Award winner.

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers are also included.

1. "300: Rise of an Empire," $45.1 million ($87.8 million international).

2. "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," $32.5 million ($21 million international).

3. "Non-Stop," $15.4 million ($12 million international).

4. "The Lego Movie," $11 million ($9.9 million international).

5. "Son of God," $10 million.

6. "The Monuments Men," $3.1 million ($3.7 million international).

7. "3 Days to Kill," $3.1 million.

8. "Frozen," $3 million ($3.6 million international).

9. "12 Years a Slave," $2.2 million ($9.1 million international).

10. "Ride Along," $2 million ($1.8 million international).

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Estimated weekend ticket sales Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:

1. "300: Rise of an Empire," $87.8 million.

2. "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," $21 million.

3. "Non-Stop," $12 million.

4. "The Lego Movie," $9.9 million.

5. "12 Years a Slave," $9.1 million.

6. "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," $8 million.

7. "Supercondriaque," $7.5 million.

8. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," $6.2 million.

9. "Pompeii," $6.1 million.

10. "Monuments Men," $3.7 million.

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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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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: HTTP://TWITTER.COM/JAKE-COYLE

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