The last time a "300" movie ruled theaters, Britney Spears shaved her head, "The Sopranos" left the air and Miley Cyrus turned 15.
It's been seven years since "300" proved that future "Man of Steel" director Zack Snyder could be trusted with epic comic book material. It made a star out of Gerard Butler and sent countless dudes to the gym. But the public clearly didn't forget, as the sort-of prequel/sequel just stormed the box office.
"300: Rise of an Empire" opened at #1 with an estimated $45.05 million over the weekend. Snyder served as co-writer and producer on the follow-up. IMAX showings raked in $6.8 million, while 63 percent of the gross came from 3D screenings, which is much higher than recent similarly themed pictures. "Rise of an Empire" sold about half as many tickets as "300," which opened with $70 million over the same weekend (and eventually made over $456 million worldwide).
DreamWorks was probably hoping for a repeat of the success of "How to Train Your Dragon" or "The Croods" with their latest animated romp. But "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" opened at #2 with a disappointing $32.5 million. The kid-friendly film did earn better reviews and a higher CinemaScore than "Rise of an Empire."
The biggest success story of the weekend belonged to a film that played in just four theaters. Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was only available in New York and Los Angeles, where it cleaned up with an estimated $800,000 haul. That $200,000 per-screen-average was the highest ever for a live-action film. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," which marked Anderson's seventh collaboration with Bill Murray, will expand into 17 new markets this weekend.
Last weekend's #1 movie, "Non-Stop," fell to #3 with $15.4 million. Liam Neeson's latest action flick has made $52.1 million thus far. "The LEGO Movie" was #4 with another $11 million, which put the animated hit at $225 million. "Son of God" dropped 61 percent in its second weekend, landing at #5 with $10 million.
Best Picture winner "12 Years a Slave" expanded to 1,065 locations over the weekend, where it grossed $2.2 million for a $53 million total. "Dallas Buyers Club" was up 47 percent, bringing its total to $26.2 million, though "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "American Hustle" were both down.
Around the world, Warner Bros. reported that "300: Rise of an Empire" was actually up from "300" abroad, earning $87.8 million at the international box office. Both "300" movies were based on the work of comic legend Frank Miller, whose first screenwriting credits were on "RobCop 2" and "RobCop 3." The "RoboCop" remake is doing much better in markets like China than here at home, with $220 million total on a reported $100 million production budget.
Over the same weekend last year, "Oz: The Great and Powerful" ruled the box office with a $79.1 million debut.