LOS ANGELES – Superspy Jason Bourne delivered more than an ultimatum this weekend as the third in a series of spy thrillers topped box office charts and delivered the biggest August opening of a film ever.
"The Bourne Ultimatum" took in $70.2 million this weekend, far surpassing the openings of both of the earlier Bourne films based on novels by Robert Ludlum.
The opening also pushed last week's top film, "The Simpsons Movie," to second place, with $25.6 million. The big-screen version of the animated TV show has topped $315 million worldwide for distributor Twentieth Century Fox.
"We're really riding high today," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal Pictures, which put out "The Bourne Ultimatum." "The reviews and audiences rated this one the best one yet."
The second in the series, "The Bourne Supremacy," earned $52.5 million in its opening weekend in 2004, while the first film, "The Bourne Identity," had an opening weekend take of $27.1 million when it debuted in 2002.
Universal's research showed that more than 90 percent of the opening weekend audience had seen the previous two Bourne films.
"People just love Matt Damon and (director) Paul Greengrass is a superstar," Rocco said. "Matt Damon is the new James Bond."
The film's opening bodes well for a robust August, which is typically when the sweltering summer movie season begins to cool off a bit.
"The summer movie season is alive and well even as we are moving into the home stretch," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "The Bourne franchise just keeps getting better with age. The consistency of quality has always been there with the Bourne movies. That builds loyalty among viewers."
This weekend's top 12 films earned a whopping 36 percent more than the top 12 did in the same weekend last year.
So far this year, the box office is up 6 percent with revenues of $6.073 billion, while attendance is up 1.42 percent.
"Underdog," Disney's live-action version of the animated crimefighter who speaks in rhyme, debuted in third place with $12 million.
The weekend's other openers didn't bark quite as loud.
"Hot Rod," a comedy from Paramount, earned $5 million.
"Bratz," a live-action comedy from Lionsgate based on the popular line of dolls, took in $4.3 million.
While it finished out of the top 12, "Becoming Jane," from Miramax, the story of author Jane Austen starring Anne Hathaway, took in $1 million on 100 screens for an impressive average of $10,100 per screen in its opening weekend.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Bourne Ultimatum," $70.2 million.
2. "The Simpsons Movie," $25.6 million.
3. "Underdog," $12 million.
4. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," $10.5 million.
5. "Hairspray," $9.3 million.
6. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $9.3 million.
7. "No Reservations," $6.6 million.
8. "Transformers," $6 million.
9. "Hot Rod," $5 million.
10. "Bratz," $4.3 million.