A scene from “The Croods.”
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood finally lured moviegoers out of their caves.
From left, Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler, Finley Jacobsen, Angela Bassett and Robert Forster in a scene from “Olympus Has Fallen.”
For the first time this year two movies arrived to $ 30 million or more in ticket sales in North America, giving studios hope that a dismal box-office stretch was behind them. “The Croods,” about a prehistoric family’s road trip, took in an estimated $ 44.7 million over the weekend, easily enough for No. 1, while “Olympus Has Fallen” took in a stronger-than-expected $ 30.5 million, for second place.
Even “Spring Breakers,” Harmony Korine’s lurid art-house tale of bikini-clad killers, lived up to its hype, taking in about $ 5 million in relatively limited national release.
Still, moviegoing in the United States and Canada remains deeply troubled. Ticket sales for the year to date total $ 2.06 billion, a 13 percent decline from the same period a year ago, according to Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst for Attendance has fallen 14 percent.
Star-packed movies like “Gangster Squad” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” have arrived to virtual shrugs. An expensive fantasy, “Jack the Giant Slayer,” flopped outright. Movies aimed at men (“The Last Stand,” “Broken City” and “21 & Over”) have disappointed in assembly-line fashion.
One of the few exceptions, “Oz the Great and Powerful” from Walt Disney Studios, sold an additional $ 22 million in tickets over the weekend, placing third. “Oz” has now taken in $ 177.6 million in North America over three weeks. (Crucial overseas sales, however, have been soft.)
“The Call” (Sony) was fourth, selling about $ 8.7 million in tickets, for a two-week total of $ 30.9 million. “Admission,” a new comedy starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, was an underwhelming fourth, taking in about $ 6.4 million. But it cost Focus Features only an estimated $ 13 million to make.
DreamWorks Animation urgently needed the cave people of “The Croods” to succeed. The studio’s last release, “Rise of the Guardians,” was a box-office failure, prompting an $ 87 million write-down. “The Croods” also represents the beginning of a new distribution partnership for DreamWorks Animation, which parted ways with Paramount Pictures late last year in favor of 20th Century Fox.
Opening-weekend results for “The Croods,” which cost at least $ 135 million to make, are on par with “How to Train Your Dragon,”also from DreamWorks with a March release date, , which took in $ 46.5 million over its first three days in 2010 (after adjusting for inflation) and went on to gross about $ 500 million worldwide and spawn two sequels, a TV series and a live arena show. But “How to Train Your Dragon” also received much stronger reviews than “The Croods.”
“Olympus Has Fallen,” an R-rated White House action thriller starring Gerard Butler, cost Millennium Films about $ 70 million to make and was distributed by FilmDistrict. Aside from giving Mr. Butler’s career a much-needed lift, the strong turnout puts pressure on Sony’s similar “White House Down,” planned for June release.
The inexpensive “Spring Breakers,” distributed by A24, played in 1,104 theaters — a huge release by independent film standards but a modest one compared with mainstream Hollywood. (“The Croods,” for example, was booked into 4,046 theaters.) Mr. Korine, still best known for writing “Kids” (1995), has never had this kind of success as a director; his previous four films took in less than $ 500,000 combined.
Starring Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and James Franco and fueled by drugs, sex and violence, “Spring Breakers” was backed by an aggressive social media marketing campaign orchestrated by A24, an upstart distributor, and theAudience, a company partly owned by the William Morris Endeavor talent agency that seeks to build (and exploit) networks of fans across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.