Box Office: Seth Rogen and Zac Efron fuel ‘Neighbors’ to $51 million opening

The first surprise hit of the summer arrived this weekend as the R-rated comedy “Neighbors” partied hard for a monster $51 million opening. Actually, anyone who had seen the Nick Stoller directed flick since its debut at the SXSW Film Festival in March could have told you it would be a hit, but a $50 million plus opening? That had to be a dream scenario for distributor Universal Pictures.  Instead, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron can now credit the flick for their biggest live action openings ever.  And for Efron, in particular, “Neighbors” success proves he really does have longterm leading man potential.

Universal's gain was Sony Pictures's loss as last week's champ, “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” fell and it fell it hard.  The second installment in the Spidey “reboot” dropped 59.4% (it could be 60% by the time Monday's actuals come in) and earned an estimated $37.2 million for $147.9 million to date.  With “Godzilla” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” arriving over the next few weeks “ASM2” may have trouble matching the first “Amazing's” $262 million domestic gross. More importantly for Sony, the movie's international cume hit $403 million which puts “ASM2” at $550.9 million overall. If it can hit $725 million Sony can breathe easy with a slight profit on a sequel which has started a national superhero fatigue conversation.

Third place went to 20th Century Fox's “The Other Woman” which dropped only 35% and earned another $9.2 million for $61.7 million to date.  Along with “Neighbors,” the film's success shows how hungry audiences are for comedies even if they aren't critic's favorites. Also worth nothing, “Other Woman” will become Diaz's fourth comedy in recent history after “What Happens in Vegas,” “Knight & Day” and “Bad Teacher” to earn over $75 million domestic. That's a trend executives should take note of.

“Heaven is Real” continued it's miraculous run in fourth place with another $7 million and $75.2 million to date.  With a drop of only 18.6% from last weekend, the only thing that will keep “Heaven” from hitting $100 million is Sony Pictures' ability to keep it in theaters.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” rounded out the top five earning $5.6 million and $244.9 million domestic. “Cap 2” should cross the $700 million worldwide mark sometime over the next week.

Among other new releases this week, TriStar's “Mom's Night Out” took in just $4.2 million and the animated “Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return” bombed with just $3.7 million.

In limited release, Open Road Films debuted “Chef” to a delicious $204,000 in just six theaters and a fine $34,000 per screen. The James Franco and Emma Roberts drama “Palo Alto” earned a solid $80,600 or $20,150 per screen.  IFC's “God's Pocket” bombed with just $23,400 or $7,800 per.

New openings on Friday include “Godzilla” and “Million Dollar Arm.”

Box office actuals are released on Monday.