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Strong US$44.5m debut for The Meg

The Meg (starring Jason Statham) has to secure big returns overseas to justify its US$130 million production budget.

Los Angeles

THE Meg devoured the competition at the North American box office over the weekend.

The Warner Bros big-budget shark thriller opened well above expectations, biting off US$44.5 million when it opened in 4,118 locations.

That was easily enough to nab the top slot over Mission: Impossible - Fallout, which picked up US$20 million in its third outing for a domestic tally of US$162 million.

The Meg, which is a co-production with China, will still have to secure big returns overseas to justify its expensive US$130 million production budget.

It's not quite in the black yet, but it's off to a good start given a US$96.8 million international tally. In the Middle Kingdom, it generated a strong US$50 million.

Imax screens accounted for US$13.6 million of The Meg's US$141.3 million global total.

With US$44.5 million in the bag, The Meg secured the best opening of the year for Warner Bros, ahead of Ready Player One (US$41.7 million) and Ocean's 8 (US$41.6 million).

Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros' head of domestic distribution, attributes the better-than-expected opening to the studio's marketing campaign, along with a non-competitive August debut.

"It's just good popcorn entertainment that didn't take itself too seriously," he said. "It's silly, it's fun, and it lets audiences have a good time."

Fellow newcomer BlacKkKlansman debut in fifth place with US$10.8 million in 1,500 locations, earning director Spike Lee his best opening in over a decade.

Lee's Cannes Grand Prix winning crime drama, which debuted on the first anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville rally, has maintained enthusiasm with a promising 97 per cent Rotten Tomatoes rating and A- CinemaScore.

"Theatres told us repeatedly over the weekend that audiences were applauding, laughing, emotional, and some in tears by the film," Focus Features' president of distribution Lisa Bunnell said.

"Spike has been able to bring something to the conversation of America that people haven't been able to have."

Horror auteurs Jason Blum and Jordan Peele co-produced the Focus Features title, which tells the true story of black detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), who goes undercover - with the help of Jewish cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) - to infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Prior to BlacKkKlansman, Lee's 2006 film Inside Man launched with US$28 million. His latest outing, Chi-Raq, picked up US$2.5 million during its limited theatrical run ahead of an Amazon release.

Sony's Slender Man, also debuted nationwide this weekend, landing in fourth with US$11.3 million in 2,358 locations. That's a solid start given the low-budget thriller carries a US$10 million price tag.

The final weekend opener, Dog Days, picked up US$2.6 million when it launched in 2,442 locations.

Meanwhile, Disney's Christopher Robin earned US$12.7 million in its sophomore frame, landing the fantasy drama based on the characters from Winnie the Pooh in third place. To date, it has generated US$50.3 million in North America.

Universal's jukebox musical Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again reached a major milestone of its own, crossing US$100 million at the domestic box office. The sequel has generated over US$280 million worldwide.

A24's Eighth Grade hit an achievement of its own with US$10 million at the domestic box office. Bo Burnham's coming-of-age drama picked up another US$1.6 million in its fifth frame.

At the speciality box office, Magnolia Pictures' Skate Kitchen bowed with US$17,000 when it opened in just one location.

The best per-screen-average, however, went to Oscilloscope's Madeline's Madeline, which pocketed US$20,000 from one venue.

The summer box office remains strong, up a promising 11.2 per cent from last year, according to comScore.

Thanks to a surprisingly powerful debut from The Meg, the weekend-to-date number is up 23.7 per cent from the same frame last year, when Annabele: Creation launched with US$35 million. REUTERS