'Mr. Peabody' upsets 'Need for Speed' at the box office

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Credit: DreamWorks Animation

Scene from "Mr. Peabody & Sherman."

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by SCOTT BOWLES

USA TODAY

Posted on March 16, 2014 at 1:54 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 16 at 8:08 PM

Testosterone-fueled films invaded the cineplex this weekend, but they were no match for kids amped up on animation.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the cartoon comedy in its second week of release, fended off Disney's race film Need for Speed and the sequel 300: Rise of an Empire, in an upset win at the box office.

Peabody collected $21.2 million, according to studio estimates from Rentrak. The sophomore-week performance underscored the clout of moviegoing kids, who make up Hollywood's biggest chunk of repeat viewers.

And they weren't interested in Need, the street-racing film starring Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul. The $65 million movie mustered just $17.8 and third place.

Analysts expected at least $22 million and a first-place finish, but critics assailed the film from the starting line: Need managed a thumbs-up from just 24% of the nation's critics, says Rotten Tomatoes. Fans were kinder, giving it a collective B-plus, say online pollsters CinemaScore.

Based on a video game that's sold more than 140 million copies, Disney promoted the film heavily, including a commercial spot during the Super Bowl.

"Need for Speed did not struggle due to lack of advertising," says David Mumpower, analyst for Box Office Prophets. "Starting with the Super Bowl, Disney pushed the title hard. In addition, Paul did everything he could."

But Mumpower says audiences viewed the film as a Fast and Furious wannabe.

"Potential moviegoers recognized the movie for what it was, a generic clone with no Vin Diesel or The Rock to justify the cost of a ticket," he says.

Empire didn't have much luck against the time-traveling dog inventor, either, though the 300 sequel is in its second weekend. Empire collected $19.1 million and second place. The $110 million film has taken in $78.3 million.

Liam Neeson's airline thriller Non-Stop did $10.6 million and took fourth place.

The only other major newcomer, Tyler Perry's Single Mom's Club, didn't fare well against the tykes, either. While the movie earned an A-minus from fans, CinemaScore says, it mustered just $8.3 million, good for fifth place.

Final figures are due Monday.

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