(Bloomberg) -- Film critics, you’re going to need a bigger boat.
‘‘The Meg,’’ a Warner Bros. thriller featuring a 70-foot shark, smashing forecasts to open as the No. 1 film in North American theaters this weekend, toppling Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” and outdrawing a new Spike Lee picture.
Starring Jason Statham as a diving expert on a rescue mission, “The Meg” brought in $44.5 million in the U.S and Canada, researcher ComScore Inc. estimated Sunday in an email, edging out “Mission: Impossible -- Fallout” at 20 million. Sony Corp.’s horror film, ‘‘Slender Man,’’ opened with $11.3 million, while Lee’s ‘‘BlacKkKlansman,’’ a comedy from Comcast Corp.’s Focus Features, generated $10.8 million.
With summer winding down, competition at the box office is letting up. Warner Bros., now part of AT&T, has the last high-profile release of the season with ‘‘Crazy Rich Asians’’ next weekend. After the U.S. Labor Day weekend, studios begins releasing artier films, the smaller-budget drama they hope will be awards contenders.
‘‘Fallout’’ and “The Meg” were neck-and-neck in analysts’ estimates, with Box Office Mojo predicting $23 million for both pictures -- meaning the shark film almost doubled the forecast.
‘‘The Meg’’ is from Warner Bros.’ Flagship unit -- a Chinese joint venture -- and qualifies as a Chinese co-production. That means the studio will get to keep more than the usual 25 percent share of ticket sales in that country. The film cost an estimated $130 million to make, according to Deadline.com, suggesting Warner Bros. will need strong international ticket sales to recoup its investment.
Statham stars as former Naval captain Jonas Taylor trying to save his ex-wife and a crew of sailors trapped in a submersible ship. He tangles with a giant, rampaging shark. “The Meg” split critics, with 50 percent recommending it, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com.
‘‘Slender Man’’ beat Box Office Pro’s $10.8 million forecast. In this Sony horror release, Massachusetts high school friends try to debunk the internet tale of an evil Slender Man when one of them disappears mysteriously. Just 18 percent of critics recommended the picture.
Spike Lee’s ‘‘BlacKkKlansman’’ landed in fifth place for Focus, shy of the $12.2 million forecast at Box Office Pro.
Based on a true story, the film features John David Washington stars as African-American detective in Colorado posing as a extremist to win the trust of a local Ku Klux Klan. With the help of an undercover white cop, they take down the group and encounter skepticism and hostility from the police department.
Produced for an estimated $17 million, the film was critically acclaimed with 98 percent of critics recommending the movie, according to RottenTomatoes.
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