Box Office: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ barely beats ‘Smurfs’ in finally weekend tally

Is Universal Studios feeling a sense of relief or disappointment this morning?  Likely, a bit of both.  After final ticket sales were tallied today, the studio’s tentpole “Cowboys & Aliens” narrowly won the weekend with $36.4 million.  Based on Sunday estimates from both Universal and Sony Pictures, “Cowboys” was tied with “Smurfs” with $36 million.  Sony’s CG animation-live-action hybrid instead found $35.6 million just $800,000 short of “Cowboy’s” gross.

While “Cowboys” can claim the marketing friendly title of “The no. 1 movie in America” this week, the Jon Favreau adventure still opened $5-10 million under pre-release polling estimates.  Considering the picture cost somewhere between $160-200 million and has gross participants such as Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, it will have to seriously perform overseas to get into the black.

“Smurfs” actually embarrassed the tracking services who predicted an opening in the low $20 million range.  At a cost of $110 million and no partners on the project, Sony Pictures should have a nice hit on their hands assuming it also plays well overseas (and considering the franchise’s European origins that shouldn’t be an issue).

Among other new releases, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” came in close to estimates with $19.1 million.

This Friday’s new releases include “The Change-Up” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”