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‘Turtles’ tops weak debut for ‘Expendables 3’

FILE - This file image released by Paramount Pictures shows characters, from left, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello, in a scene from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Moviegoers continued to shell out for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” while Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables 3” was easily out-gunned in its weekend debut. according to studio estimates Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic, File)

FILE - This file image released by Paramount Pictures shows characters, from left, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello, in a scene from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Moviegoers continued to shell out for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” while Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables 3” was easily out-gunned in its weekend debut. according to studio estimates Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic, File)

Moviegoers continued to shell out for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while Sylvester Stallone’s action ensemble The Expendables 3 was easily out-gunned in its weekend debut.

Paramount Pictures’s rebooted reptiles took in $28.4 million in the film’s second weekend, according to studio estimates yesterday. That far surpassed the limp $16.2 million earned by Stallone’s gang of aged but buff warriors.

The paltry, fourth-place total for The Expendables 3 is well below previous debuts in the Lionsgate franchise. The last two Expendables opened with $34.8 million (in August 2010) and $28.6 million (in August 2012). The third film was the first to be rated PG-13 in the previously R-rated series, which potentially signaled watered-down explosiveness to an audience that was largely over 25, anyway.

Expendables 3, which features a sprawling cast of Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and others, also leaked online before its release, potentially damaging its impact in theaters.

Instead, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy came in second with $24.7 million, bringing its three-week cumulative total to $222 million for distributor Walt Disney. Along with the Nickelodeon Movies-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the cosmic romp starring Chris Pratt has helped restore some strength to the summer box office. Sequels are already in the works for both films.

After box-office returns well off the pace of last summer, Hollywood has made a slight comeback in August, typically a dumping ground for studio leftovers. The summer overall is still running at a 15 percent deficit from last year’s record-breaking season, but the gap had once been above 20 percent. August is up 14 percent on last year.

“It’s called the dog days of August for a reason,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, “but thankfully in a summer with a lot of ups and downs, this has been a really good August.”

A busy weekend slate also helped. Opening in third place was the 20th Century Fox buddy comedy Let’s Be Cops, starring Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. It took in $17.7 million.

Also debuting was the Lois Lowry adaption The Giver, a dystopian young-adult tale starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. The Weinstein Co. release opened with an estimated $12.8 million.

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