Box office shocker: 'The Purge' tops weekend with $36.4 million 

Ethan Hawke in "The Purge."
Ethan Hawke in "The Purge."Today

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By Pamela McClintock

Universal and Jason Blum's microbudgeted thriller "The Purge" had no trouble scaring off "The Internship" as it grossed a stunning $36.4 million -- double the opening of the Google comedy.

"The Purge," starring Ethan Hawke and "Game of Thrones'" Lena Headey, wasn't Universal's only victory of the weekend. "Fast & Furious 6"claimed the No. 2 spot as it grossed $19.8 million in its third weekend to race past the $200 million mark domestically.

Directed by Shawn Levy, "The Internship"placed No. 4 behind "Now You See Me" as it opened to a muted $18.1 million, despite reuniting Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson for the first time since "Wedding Crashers" in 2005.

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That's slightly better than expected, but 20th Century Fox and New Regency, which split the $58 million budget, had hoped for much more when embarking on the comedy. Many reviewers have skewered "The Internship" -- starring Vaughn and Wilson as washed-up salesmen who become interns at Google -- for being an advertisement for the giant tech company. Audiences were more generous, giving the PG-13 entry a B+ CinemaScore.

The marks Levy's worst opening in a decade (in 2003, Fox comedy "Just Married" debuted to $17.5 million). And it will come nowhere near to "Wedding Crashers," which debuted to $33.9 million, ushering in a new era or prosperity for R-rated comedies. Levy and Vaughn, who produced and co-wrote "TheInternship," worked closely with Google throughout the process of making the film.

From writer-director James DeMonaco, "The Purge" -- costing a mere $3 million to make and already making its budget back -- is set in a future where one night a year all crime is legal. The film received a C CinemaScore, not unusual for the genre.

Heading into the weekend, "The Purge" -- Hawke's biggest opening in North America -- was tracking to open south of $20 million, but a strong turnout among younger female moviegoers and Hispanics led to the movie vastly overperforming.

"We didn't expect anything near this result," Universal president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco. "The social media campaign really paid off, as well as the traditional campaign."

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"The Purge"is the first title to be released through Universal's partnership with Blum, the producer behind the "Paranormal Activity" franchise and "Insidious." Blum produced the movie with Michael Bay, Sebastien K. LeMercier and Bay's colleagues at Platinum Dunes, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller.

Fox's 3D animated family film "Epic" placed No. 5 in its third weekend, grossing $12.1 million for a domestic cume of $84.2 million.

J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek Into Darkness," continuing to enjoy an enviable hold, also jumped the $200 million mark in North America, grossing $11.7 million in its fourth weekend for a total of $200.1 million. Overseas, the film grossed $17.6 million for the weekend for an international haul of $176.4 million -- 40 percent ahead of "Star Trek." "Into Darkness'" worldwide cume is $376.4 million.

Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" soared at the specialty box office, grossing $185,000 from five theaters for a location average of $37,000, a victory for the filmmaker and Roadside Attractions.