Will Smith's Focus whips Fifty Shades of Grey at US box office

Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith kiss at the premiere of Focus last week at the TCL Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith kiss at the premiere of Focus last week at the TCL Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Will Smith's new action drama Focus booted the kinky sex tale Fifty Shades of Grey for its perch atop the US and Canadian weekend box office charts, racking up US$19.1 million (S$26.03 million) in ticket sales.

Smith, in his first leading role since 2013's After Earth, plays a seasoned con artist who meets up with an aspiring con artist, played by Margot Robbie, in the romance-caper film hybrid.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, an adaptation of a popular comic series which stars Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Firth about a spy agency's training program and a global threat by a tech genius, also outpaced Grey to claim second place with US$11.8 million.

Third place on a weekend that saw business hampered by rough winter weather in the south and midwest again went to the family-friendly The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, based on the popular television show about a talking animated sponge. It sold US$11.2 million in tickets.

Grey, the smash hit adaptation of the best-selling novel which stars James Dornan and Dakota Johnson as the libidinous couple, took in US$10.9 million, landing in fourth from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates. The film is closing in on US$148 million at the domestic box office since opening just over two weeks ago.

Rounding out the top five, The Lazarus Effect, which stars Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde as researchers trying to resurrect the dead, took the No. 5 spot on its opening weekend with US$10.6 million in sales.

"This was a rather slow weekend at the box office," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at box office tracking firm Rentrak, noting that Oscar winners such as Still Alice and Birdman had received a good boost from Sunday's awards.

"The severely inclement weather in the south and midwest threw off our number," said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros, the Time Warner unit that released Focus.

"When you look at the markets not hit by weather, we did really well," Goldstein said, adding that the film had played especially well with younger audiences, where "word of mouth will really help".

International box office would further boost the film's fortunes, Goldstein said.