'Guardians of the Galaxy' back on top, 'Sin City 2' flops

Guardians of the Galaxy. (Courtesy Marvel)

Guardians of the Galaxy. (Courtesy Marvel)

Brent Lang, Variety.com

, Last Updated: 1:16 PM ET

Teen girls and fanboys duked it out at the box office this weekend, with "Guardians of the Galaxy" getting the upper hand on newcomer "If I Stay" and scoring first place with a $17.6 million haul, according to studio estimates.

It was the second time that Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" came out on top, although two weeks separate its victories. It marks the first time this year that a film has topped the domestic box office in non-consecutive weeks.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" has become the summer's top-grossing domestic release and, with $489.5 million globally, has passed the final tallies of "Thor" ($449 million) and "Captain America: The First Avenger" ($371 million).

The relative weakness of this weekend's crop of new releases benefited another holdover, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," which came in at second place with $16.8 million. The Paramount Pictures reboot has now made $145.6 million stateside after three weeks in theatres.

"If I Stay" did sail past "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" on the box office charts. The tween drama took third place with $16.4 million while the graphic novel sequel scored a woeful $6.5 million from 2,894 locations, a fraction of the $29.1 million that the first "Sin City" made in 2005.

The retro-noir thriller brought back stars Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke and co-director Robert Rodriguez, but the follow-up to a film that had proved so influential now may have seemed passe after a decade that saw a succession of similarly themed comicbook adaptations, such as "300" and "The Watchmen," routinely crop up on screen.

"We weren't prepared for this level of rejection by the public," said Erik Lomis, The Weinstein Company's head of theatrical distribution. "We thought the film would resonate more. It's like the ice bucket challenge without the good cause."

The weekend's other new entrant, Sony Pictures' "When the Game Stands Tall," earned $9 million from 2,673 locations. "When the Game Stands Tall" follows high school football coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), whose inspirational style of leadership led his team to a record-breaking winning streak.

"Our marketing campaign was very grassroots and to open at this level on a movie there's so much love for, is great," said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' president of worldwide distribution.

The studio targeted faith-based audiences. It paired up with Affirm Films on a marketing campaign, which included 200 screenings for religious audiences in an effort to drive word-of-mouth.

All three new releases ended up on the low end of pre-release tracking. Analysts had expected "If I Stay" to make as much as $20 million, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" to rack up $15 million and "When the Game Stands Tall" to hit between $8 million to $10 million.

"It's a win for us," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' domestic distribution chief. "If you throw tracking out the window and look at the economics, we'll end up with a reasonable profit on the movie and a good ancillary business."

Fox's R-rated comedy "Let's Be Cops" took fourth place with $11 million, while The Weinstein Company's "The Giver" actually out-performed "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" with $6.7 million. "The Expendables 3," which like "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" numbers among the summer's flops, dropped 58% in its second weekend to $6.6 million.

"If I Stay" was produced by Warner Bros./New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and arrived with literary potency. It is adapted from Gayle Forman's best-selling novel of the same name. It does not match that of the similarly themed and book-based "The Fault in Our Stars" earlier this summer. Despite its success, "If I Stay" won't come close to the numbers scored by Fox's "The Fault in Our Stars," an adaptation of John Green's best-seller, which opened to a dazzling $48 million in June.

"If I Stay" centers on a teenage girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who falls in a coma after a car accident kills her family. Hovering between life and death, she must decide whether to join her family in the afterlife or remain on earth with her boyfriend. The film skewed younger (61% of the opening audience was under 25) and female (77%).

Both "If I Stay" and "When the Game Stands Tall" benefit from their modest production budgets of $11 million and $10 million, respectively.

The Weinstein Company, which is distributing the "Sin City" follow-up, but not prodding it, did not release a budget, but according to an individual with knowledge, the picture cost between $60 million and $70 million. Its backers, a hodgepodge of investors that includes Aldamisa, face an ocean of red ink.

"We didn't produce the movie, but Robert Rodriguez is a member of The Weinstein Company and Dimension family and we stand behind him and we stand behind the movie," said Lomis. "It's a big disappointment."

In the art house scene, "Love is Strange" earned $126,552 on five screens, with a per screen average of $25,310. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing the well reviewed gay drama. Radius' "The One I Love" opened theatrically after debuting on demand. The Elisabeth Moss romantic comedy snagged $55,126 from eight screens and has made $502,387 in three weeks on demand.


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