LOS ANGELES, March 25, (Variety.com) - After weeks of speculating which film could slow "Black Panther's" impressive roll, "Pacific Rim Uprising" took the top spot at the domestic box office.
Universal and Legendary's "Pacific Rim Uprising" landed a respectable $28 million opening weekend at 3,708 locations. The monster battle movie has garnered mixed critical response, with a current 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Though it opened with a softer debut than Guillermo del Toro's predecessor "Pacific Rim," which saw $37 million in July 2013, the sequel was enough to dethrone "Black Panther" in the superhero tentpole's sixth weekend.
Steven S. DeKnight co-wrote and directed "Pacific Rim Uprising" with a reported $150 million budget. The original, which starred Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam, and Robert Kazinsky, went on to gross $411 million at the worldwide box office, thanks to a strong international showing, especially in China, where it made $112 million compared to the U.S.' $101.8 million.
The sequel is set 10 years after the Battle of the Breach with a new generation of Jaeger pilots ready to combat the evolving Kaiju monsters and prevent humanity's extinction. John Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Elba's character Stacker Pentecost, who sacrificed his life in the first film. Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona, and Day also star.
Still, in its sixth weekend "Black Panther" continues to be a powerhouse, nabbing the No. 2 spot with $17 million at 3,370 sites. That number lands "Black Panther" one of the seven highest sixth weekends in history. To date, the Marvel film has taken in $631 million, making it the fifth-highest all-time domestic grosses ahead of "The Avengers."
"It had to happen at some point, and Universal's 'Pacific Rim Uprising' now holds the distinction of being the film that took over 'Black Panther's' long-standing position as king of the weekend box office mountain," Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst at comScore, said. "The latest Disney superhero film has been an absolute marvel, holding onto the top spot for a whopping five weeks, while sprinting its way up the all-time charts and now stands as the fifth highest grossing film of all-time in North America and ranks twelfth globally after just 38 days in theaters.
Meanwhile, Roadside Attraction and Lionsgate's faith-based "I Can Only Imagine" remains a force in its second weekend with $13 million from 2,253 sites. Based on the story behind the best-selling Christian song, "I Can Only Imagine" earned a surprisingly strong $17.1 million at the domestic box office, bringing its total up to $38 million.
Following "I Can Only Imagine's" success, biblical drama "Paul, Apostle of Christ" opened in line with estimates with $5 million at 1,473 sites over Palm Sunday weekend. The story follows James Faulkner as Saint Paul in his last days awaiting execution by Emperor Nero in Rome. Directed by Andrew Hyatt, the film also stars Jim Caviezel, Olivier Martinez, Joanne Whalley, and John Lynch.
Also opening this weekend was Paramount Pictures and MGM's animated comedy "Sherlock Gnomes," which saw $10 million at 3,662 locations. That's significantly lower than initial tracking estimates between $13 million to $18 million. The sequel to 2011's "Gnomeo & Juliet," which reeled in $194 million worldwide, sees the petite pair recruiting detective Sherlock Gnomes and his sidekick, Gnome Watson, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of other garden gnomes. Directed by John Stevenson and executive produced by Elton John, it features the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mary J. Blige, and Johnny Depp.
The second weekend of Alicia Vikander's "Tomb Raider" landed $10 million from 3,854 locations, bringing its grosses up to $41 million, while the second weekend of "Love, Simon" took in $7 million with $23 million to date.
Two smaller releases -- Global Road Entertainment's "Midnight Sun" and Bleecker Street and Fingerprint Releasing's "Unsane" -- debuted with $4 million and $3.6 million respectively.
Young adult romantic drama "Midnight Sun" stars Bella Thorne as a teen who has been sheltered at home since childhood due to a life-threatening sensitivity to sunlight. Steven Soderbergh's psychological thriller "Unsane" sees Claire Foy as a troubled woman stalked by her ex. Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins, and Amy Irving round out the cast.