Box Office: Green Lantern's Superhero Fatigue

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Warner Bros. Pictures

Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern

How many comic-book "origins" movies will audiences pay to see in seven weeks? For North American moviegoers, apparently, three's a crowd.

Green Lantern, the first movie to be based on the trans-galactic hero introduced by DC Comics in 1941, won the weekend with $52.7 million, according to early studio estimates — but that was the lowest take for the summer season's preternatural dudes. In early May, audiences bought into Thor, giving the Marvel thunder god $65.7 million in the film's first three days and a current worldwide gross of about $435 million. Two weeks ago, Marvel's X-Men: First Class managed a three-day opening of $55.1 million, and it has already bagged a quarter-billion dollars globally. With a traffic jam of mega-muscular god-men at the multiplexes, viewers could be suffering from superhero fatigue. Sorry, they may say, I already gave at the box office.

Granted, Lantern, with Ryan Reynolds in the skin-tight emerald tutu, wasn't far behind X-Men's early take. And the character is a fairly minor one in the comics cosmology, so there was less of a nostalgia prod to get overage kids into theaters. But Warner Bros. reportedly spent almost $300 million on producing and marketing the movie, and needs a more robust return on its investment. If there's to be a sequel, as is promised at the end of the film, Lantern will need to hold well in the coming weeks against Transformers 3 and other blockbusters.

That's not likely, considering that the Saturday gross was 22% below Friday's — suggesting negative word of mouth — and that the CinemaScore rating from exiting moviegoers was a mediocre B. Viewers' communal shrug was reflected in the film's sour reviews: Lantern pulled a dank 25% from the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate of critics, compared with 87% for X-Men: First Class and 77% for Thor. Bad news, too, for the industry's love of 3-D movies: only 45% of the weekend's revenue came from theaters charging extra for 3-D.

It's possible that Warner overestimated Reynolds' drawing power. An actor with a TV star's lightweight likability, not a movie star's sexy danger, he has appeared in only two movies that earned real money: the X-Men prequel Wolverine, in a small role in support of Hugh Jackman; and The Proposal, in which he was the romantic foil to Sandra Bullock in her big comeback vehicle. Reynolds' last solo starring role, in the thriller Buried, amassed just $1,044,143 in the U.S. and his native Canada.

The Warner flacks were hoping that Lantern would enjoy boffo business as a Father's Day attraction; we'll know for sure when final weekend stats are announced on Monday. But any kids thinking Lantern would be a nice treat for Dad should know that both the hero and his mutant adversary Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) undergo traumas watching their dads crash in planes. Have a great day, Pop — wish you were dead.

Jim Carrey is a onetime actual movie star, with two films (How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Bruce Almighty) that have earned more than $200 million at the domestic box office and another 10 in excess of $100 million. Carrey's last big live-action comedy, Yes Man, finished at a respectable $97.7 million. But his new entry, Mr. Popper's Penguins — a kids' caper that could be described as Dr. Dolittle meets The Chipmunks — opened soft this weekend, with just $18.2 million. This time, the audience was the Grinch.

Penguins landed in third place, one spot behind last week's winner, Super 8, which fell a modest 40% from its opening weekend. In its first 10 days, J.J. Abrams' alien-monster thriller has earned $72.8 million — exactly the 10-day gross of another critics'-darling sci-fi movie, the 2009 District 9. Yet Super 8 should be doing a bit better, since it carries a kid-friendly PG-13 rating, as opposed to District 9's R; the TV-and-movie phenom Abrams, with his producer Steven Spielberg's name plastered all over the advertising, should also be a more seductive draw than that of District 9 tyro director Neil Blomkamp and his patron, Lord of the Rings master Peter Jackson.

Over in indie-ville, Freddie Highmore (Charlie in Tim Burton's Chocolate Factory) and Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew) play high school sweethearts in The Art of Getting By, which opened in 610 theaters to a minuscule $700,000 take. Two highly praised documentaries opened to decent, $16,000-per screen averages: Buck, in five theaters; and Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, in two. Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris expanded to 1,000 venues and earned a fantastique $5.2 million ($21.8 million in five weeks), while Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life finished in 12th place, with $1.1 million at 114 theaters ($3.85 million in four weeks). For arthouse denizens, at least, Woody and Terry are auteur superheroes whose appeal hasn't waned.

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend's top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. Green Lantern, $52.7 million, first weekend
2. Super 8, $21.25 million; $72.8 million, second week
3. Mr. Popper's Penguins, $18.2 million, first weekend
4. X-Men: First Class, $11.5 million; $119.9 million, third week
5. The Hangover Part II, $9.6 million; $232.7 million, fourth week
6. Kung Fu Panda 2, $8.7 million; $143.3 million, fourth week
7. Bridesmaids, $7.4 million; $136.8 million, sixth week
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, $6.2 million; $220.3 million, fifth week
9. Midnight in Paris, $5.2 million; $21.8 million, fifth week
10. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, $2.2 million; $11.2 million, second week