July 25 (Reuters) – Angelina Jolie’s new spy thriller “Salt” failed to take the North American box office crown from Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Inception,” which enjoyed a stronger-than-expected hold in its second weekend.
According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, “Inception” earned $43.5 million during the three days beginning on Friday, while “Salt” was at No. 2 with $36.5 million.
Pundits had predicted “Salt” might hit the $40 million range, although distributor Columbia Pictures said the opening was in line with its expectations.
The three-day estimate represents a significant drop from the $50 million openings for each of Jolie’s last big films, “Wanted” and “Mr and Mrs Smith.”
Jolie earned $20 million for “Salt,” a timely thriller about Russian sleeper spies preparing to bring the United States to its knees. The high-energy action role was originally envisaged for Tom Cruise, who went on to make the box office dud “Knight and Day” instead.
“Inception,” starring DiCaprio as a thief who steals secrets from deep within people’s subconscious, raced to $143.7 million after 10 days, thanks to a drop of just 31 percent from last weekend. Movies generally lose about half of their opening-weekend audience.
“It’s driven by word of mouth, it’s driven by repeat business already,” Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said of the film’s strong hold.
The $160 million project was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the English filmmaker responsible for the last two “Batman” movies.
Columbia Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp (6758.T)(SNE.N). Warner Bros. Pictures is a unit of Time Warner Inc (TWX.N). (Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by John O’Callaghan)