LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles earned US$65 million (S$81 million) in ticket sales at US and Canadian movie theatres over the weekend, easily winning a box office battle with Marvel's outer-space hit Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Ninja Turtles, a reboot of a franchise born in 1980s comic books and popularised in TV cartoons, rang up another US$28.7 million in international markets for a global debut of US$93.7 million, according to distributor Paramount Pictures which wasted no time in announcing a sequel, set to open June 3, 2016.
Guardians, which ruled the box office universe a week ago with a record opening for August, collected US$41.5 million during its second weekend, according to estimates from research firm Rentrak.
New tornado-chasing thriller Into The Storm landed in the No. 3 slot with US$18 million.
Forecasters had predicted a tight race between Guardians and Ninja Turtles. But the hard-shelled reptile heroes, brought back to TV on a Nickelodeon show in 2012, crushed expectations for a domestic total of around US$40 million.
Megan Fox stars in the film as a reporter who becomes a close ally of the four pizza-loving turtles who emerge from the sewer to fight criminals in New York City.
The movie cost US$125 million to make.
"This exceeded all our expectations," said Megan Colligan, head of domestic marketing and distribution at Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom as is Nickelodeon Movies, which together released the film.
"Families came out in a very big way, while teenagers were drawn to the film's incredible action sequences," said Colligan, explaining how the film's box office performance was driven far beyond the expected fan base of 25- to 35-year olds.
Global sales for Guardians reached US$313 million, distributor Walt Disney said. The film stars Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana as galactic warriors who lead a rag-tag band of heroes including a talking raccoon and a human-like tree.
While Turtles and Guardians have provided a late boost to summer ticket sales, the season remains 16.5 per cent behind last year's record pace with a total of US$3.465 billion since May 2, against US$4.15 billion for the same period a year ago, according to Rentrak.
The weekend's No. 3 film, Into The Storm, takes place in a fictional Midwest town hit by the strongest tornadoes ever seen. The movie, released by Time Warner's Warner Bros, cost US$50 million to make.
Food romance The Hundred-Foot Journey debuted with US$11.1 million at domestic theateres, finishing fourth. The movie stars Helen Mirren as a French restaurateur who feuds with the Indian family that takes over the defunct restaurant across the street.
"Hundred-Foot Journey was produced by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios, Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films and Participant Media. Disney distributed the film.
New music drama Step Up All In, about an epic dance contest in Las Vegas, earned US$6.6 million at North American (US and Canadian) theatres over the weekend, taking sixth place. The movie was released by Lions Gate Entertainment.