By Dave McNary
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Underlining Ben Affleck's star power, "The Accountant" dominated moviegoing with a solid $24.7 million opening weekend at 3,222 North American sites.
Sunday's estimate came in significantly above expectations, which had ranged from $18 million to $20 million at the start of the weekend.
Comedy concert film "Kevin Hart: What Now?" delivered about half of "The Accountant" total with $12 million at 2,568 locations. But the debut of sci-fi adventure "Max Steel" was ignored by moviegoers with $2.1 million at 2,034 screens for a dismal $1,049 per-screen average.
Warner Bros.' "The Accountant" took in $200,000 more than last weekend's winner, "The Girl on the Train," which opened with $24.5 million. The Emily Blunt thriller finished in a tie for second with "Kevin Hart: What Now?"
"The Accountant" carries a moderate $40 million price tag with Affleck portraying an autistic math savant and weapons expert who cooks the books for criminal organizations. Gavin O'Connor directs from a script by Bill Dubuque. Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow also star. Prospects for holdover business are decent with an A CinemaScore, particularly with 86% of customers over 25.
"The Accountant" opened quietly in 10 international markets with $2.8 million from 1,190 screens, led by $755,000 at 109 sites in Taiwan. It will open next weekend in Brazil, Germany and Spain.
Warner-based Affleck has a strong track record in dramas with 2010's "The Town," which grossed $154 million worldwide; 2012's Best Picture Oscar winner "Argo," with $232 million worldwide; and 2014's "Gone Girl," with $369 million worldwide. His Prohibition-era crime drama "Live by Night" opens on Christmas and he'll return as Batman in "Justice League" on Nov. 17, 2017.
"Kevin Hart: What Now?" is a look at the final performance of his most recent comedy tour, filmed in August, 2015, at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field -- and book-ended by James Bond-style spoof sequences in which Hart teams with Halle Berry as his loyal but dismissive associate. Leslie Small and Tim Story directed.
The concert film is already a money-maker with production costs under $10 million. Hart's a proven performer in this genre with 2013's "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" having grossed $32 million domestically.
Open Road is handling "Max Steel," based on Mattel's line of action figures and starring Ben Winchell of MTV's "Finding Carter." The film, produced focuses on the teenage Max McGrath and alien companion Steel, who evolve into the superhero Max Steel.
Fox's third weekend of "Miss Perregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" finished fourth with $8.9 million at 3,538 locations, giving the Tim Burton fantasy $65.8 million after 17 days. Lionsgate's third frame of Mark Wahlberg disaster drama "Deepwater Horizon" followed in fifth with $6.4 million at 3,403 sites for a $49.3 million domestic total.