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‘Turtles’ tops ‘Guardians’ at weekend box office

BOX OFFICE TOPS: This image released by Paramount Pictures shows characters, from left, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello in a scene from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Photo: Associated Press/AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic

By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The return of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” earned $65 million in ticket sales at U.S. and Canadian movie theaters over the weekend, easily winning a box office battle with Marvel’s outer space hit “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“Ninja Turtles,” a reboot of a franchise born in 1980s comic books and popularized in TV cartoons, rang up another $28.7 million in international markets for a global debut of $93.7 million, according to distributor Paramount Pictures which wasted no time in announcing a sequel, set to open June 3, 2016.

“Guardians,” which ruled the box office universe a week ago with a record opening for August, collected $41.5 million during its second weekend, according to estimates from research firm Rentrak. New tornado-chasing thriller “Into the Storm” landed in the No. 3 slot with $18 million.

Forecasters had predicted a tight race between “Guardians” and “Ninja Turtles.” But the hard-shelled reptile heroes, brought back to TV on a Nickelodeon show in 2012, crushed expectations for a domestic total of around $40 million.

Megan Fox stars in the film as a reporter who becomes a close ally of the four pizza-loving turtles who emerge from the sewer to fight criminals in New York City. The movie cost $125 million to make.

“This exceeded all our expectations,” said Megan Colligan, head of domestic marketing and distribution at Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc as is Nickelodeon Movies, which together released the film.

“Families came out in a very big way” while teenagers were drawn to the film’s incredible action sequences,” said Colligan, explaining how the film’s box office performance was driven far beyond the expected fan base of 25 to 35-year olds.

Global sales for “Guardians” reached $313 million, distributor Walt Disney Co said. The film stars Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana as galactic warriors who lead a rag-tag band of heroes including a talking raccoon and a human-like tree.

While “Turtles” and “Guardians” have provided a late boost to summer ticket sales, the season remains 16.5 percent behind last year’s record pace, according to Rentrak.

The weekend’s No. 3 film, “Into the Storm,” takes place in a fictional Midwest town hit by the strongest tornadoes ever seen. The movie, released by Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros., cost $50 million to make.

Food romance “The Hundred-Foot Journey” debuted with $11.1 million at domestic theaters, finishing fourth. The movie stars Helen Mirren as a French restaurateur who feuds with the Indian family that takes over the defunct restaurant across the street.

“Hundred-Foot Journey” was produced by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Participant Media. Disney distributed the film.

New music drama “Step Up All In,” about an epic dance contest in Las Vegas, earned $6.6 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters over the weekend, taking sixth place. The movie was released by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

(The story corrects headline to reflect ‘Turtles’ beats Marvel’s ‘Guardians’)

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud; Editing by Lynne O’Donnell)

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