‘Tron: Legacy’ box office bigger than the average bear

Dec. 19, 2010 | 2:51 p.m.

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: The new Disney film “Tron: Legacy” picks up the story of the 1982 movie “Tron,” which was neither a critical nor a commercial success but somehow still echoes in pop culture as an early signpost of the digital era’s glowing frontier. “Tron” is remembered more for its ideas and images (and its namesake video game) than for its story or characters, and that is a challenge presented to this new film, which stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde.  Today, Ben Fritz of Company Town takes a look at the opening weekend box office…

Michael Sheen and Garret Hedlund in “Tron: Legacy” (Walt Disney Co.)

On a weekend packed with new releases, some movies came out well positioned to become holiday hits while one was dead on arrival. Walt Disney Studios’ big-budget sequel “Tron: Legacy” opened to a solid $43.6 million. The 3-D animation/live-action hybrid “Yogi Bear” started with a soft but not terrible $16.7 million. And the costly Reese Witherspoon-Owen Wilson adult comedy “How Do You Know” turned out to be one of the year’s biggest flops, opening to $7.6 million.

The weekend also saw two movies expand from limited to nationwide release with very strong ticket sales given their modest budgets. “The Fighter,” starring Mark Wahlberg, took in $12.2 million. “Black Swan” grossed $8.3 million, a particularly impressive figure as it was playing at only 959 theaters, less than half the number of any other film in the top 10.

The audience for “Tron: Legacy,” which cost Disney about $170 million to make and is a hugely hyped property for the company with spinoffs in theme parks, video games and on television, was primarily adult males. The studio had expected on opening weekend to get fanboys who remembered the 1982 original. Now, with children starting holiday vacation this week, it’s opening for more of an all-ages event film for families looking for 3-D effects and action. Exit polls indicated most audiences liked “Tron: Legacy.” It received an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Initial foreign grosses were a little more troublesome for Disney. “Tron” took in a so-so $23 million from 26 foreign markets, but bad weather in Europe left the studio hopeful the film would recover for a strong foreign run…

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

– Ben Fritz

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More in: Movies, Ben Fritz, Tron

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