Moviegoing was down again at the domestic box office as Sony's sci-fi action epic Total Recall opened to a soft $26 million, well behind the $36.4 million earned by returning champ The Dark Knight Rises in its third weekend.
New family player Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days also came in on the low end of expectations in opening to $14.7 million. However, the film cost a modest $22 million to produce so is already on solid ground financially.
The Aurora theater shooting and the 2012 Summer Olympics continue to mute moviegoing. Domestic ticket sales were down 25 percent from the same weekend last year, while research firm NRG continues to warn studios that 20 percent of the moviegoing audience are skittish after the shooting (16 percent reported they would be watching the Olympics this weekend).
Heading into the weekend, Sony projected a domestic opening in the $25 million to $30 million range for Total Recall, although many box office observers believed it would come in on the higher end and possibly jump the $30 million mark. The pic cost at least $125 million to produce.
"We opened within that realm. We're off to a good start and I think the film will be very successful on a worldwide basis," Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said. "When you consider the scope of the movie and all the special effects, it was made for a very reasonable price."
Total Recall -- directed by Len Wiseman and headlining Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel -- is counting on a strong international run to boost its bottom line and opened in 10 Asian markets this weekend, earning $6.2 million.
The movie played best to older moviegoers in North America. Males made up 58 percent of the audience, while ticket holders over the age of 30 made up 53 percent.
Neither critics nor moviegoers were wowed by the remake, based both on the 1990 Paul Verhoeven film and the short story by Philip K. Dick. The film drew generally poor reviews and earned a C+ CinemaScore from the audience, likely hurting word of mouth.
Fox's Wimpy Kid 3 is the first film in the family franchise to open in summer (in keeping with the story's setting). The previous two installments debuted in March, each opening north of $22 million.
Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for Fox, said Wimpy Kid 3 will make up the difference during the week, considering that kids are still out of school. He said the studio always knew the film would be a slow burn.
"We're off to a good start and the balance of summer lies ahead," Aronson said.
Wimpy Kid 3 earned an A- CinemaScore.
Dark Knight Rises, from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, fell only 41 percent in its third weekend and has now grossed $354.6 million domestically. The movie continues to trail The Dark Knight, which had amassed a domestic war chest of $393 million at the same point in time.
Imax theaters continue to see big grosses for Dark Knight Rises, generating $5.6 million in tickets sales over the weekend for a cume of $43 million.