Matt Damon's futuristic thriller "Elysium," the story of an elite space outpost locked in battle with poor invaders from a ruined Earth, won a crowded box-office race among four new films at U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend.
"Elysium" grabbed $30.5 million in domestic ticket sales from Friday through Sunday, according to estimates from distributor Sony Pictures. The movie added $10.9 million from 17 international markets, for a combined global opening of $41.4 million.
"Elysium" edged the Jennifer Aniston comedy "We're the Millers," which took in $26.6 million, while "Planes," a spinoff of Walt Disney Co's Pixar franchise "Cars," took off with $22.5 million at domestic theaters, finishing in third.
The other newcomer, fantasy movie "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," landed fourth with $14.6 million.
Effects-filled action movie "Elysium" came in at the low end of pre-weekend forecasts for a debut in the low $30 million range. The movie portrays two distinct worlds in the year 2154 - a diseased and overpopulated Earth and Elysium, a space station where the elite live far from the seething masses.
Damon stars as Max, a blue-collar worker with a criminal past who needs medicine from Elysium to survive. Jodie Foster plays the Elysium defense secretary bent on keeping Max and all other illegal immigrants out.
The $115 million production was produced and financed by Media Rights Capital. The movie was distributed by Sony, the studio that stumbled earlier this summer with big-budget releases "After Earth" and "White House Down."
"We're feeling very good about our results," said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' president of worldwide distribution, noting that "there were a lot of movies opening this week."
"The picture will roll out really big-time internationally over the next two weeks ... and it's going to be a bit hit for us internationally."
"Planes," which features the voice of Dane Cook as Dusty, a crop duster trying to overcome a fear of heights, was produced by the DisneyToon studio for $50 million and originally planned as a direct-to-DVD release.
"We're the Millers" stars Aniston as a stripper enlisted by a small time pot-dealer (Jason Sudeikis) to pose as his wife when he puts together a phony family so he can smuggle marijuana into the United States. The film, produced for $37 million, added $11.5 million from Wednesday and Thursday sales for a five-day total of $38 million.
"We're thrilled," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros president of domestic distribution, adding that opening on Wednesday "certainly paid off. We had great word-of-mouth going into the weekend," which delivered a box office total several million beyond what the studio anticipated for the five-day span.
"Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" also opened ahead of the weekend, grossing $8.9 million on Wednesday and Thursday at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters.
The $90 million production is a sequel to 2010 release "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief." Both films are based on books about a boy with special powers. In the new film, the boy played by Logan Lerman joins with his friends on a quest for a golden fleece that will save their home.
Finishing fifth for the weekend, action movie "2 Guns," starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, took in $11.1 million.
"We're the Millers" was released by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" was distributed by 20th Century Fox, a unit of 21st Century Fox. "2 Guns" was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp.