Karate Kid kicks way to No. 1

The Karate Kid has won a 1980s showdown at the box office against The A-Team.

Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith

LOS ANGELES — The Karate Kid has won a 1980s showdown at the box office against The A-Team.

Sony’s remake of 1984’s The Karate Kid debuted at No. 1 for the weekend with a whopping US$56 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The big-screen adaptation of the 1980s TV series The A-Team came in at less than half that, the 20th Century Fox release opening in second place with $26 million. After three weekends at No. 1, DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek Forever After slipped to No. 3 with $15.8 million.

The animated hit raised its domestic haul to $210.1 million, becoming the fourth movie released this year to top $200 million. With a relatively modest production budget of $40 million, The Karate Kid far exceeded the studio’s expectations.

Early on, Sony executives would have been happy if the movie opened to half its $56 million debut weekend, said Rory Bruer, the studio’s head of distribution.

Those expectations began to rise once the studio realized it had a crowd-pleaser on its hands, Bruer said. “It’s just an unmitigated grand slam hit,” said Bruer, who also worked on distribution for the 1984 version.

“I loved the original Karate Kid, but they took this beloved title, and they made it relevant, fresh and absolutely exciting.”

The big opening for The Karate Kid gave Hollywood a boost after a weak start to the summer season. Iron Man 2 opened big the first weekend in May, but the box office has lagged since then.

According to box-office tracker Hollywood.com, overall revenues came in at $153 million, up 11 per cent from the same weekend last year, when The Hangover led with $32.8 million.

The Karate Kid stars Jaden Smith as an American boy who moves with his mom to China, where he takes on a bully under the guidance of an unassuming martial-arts master (Jackie Chan).

With his first lead role, 11-year-old Smith had an opening weekend that stacked up well against the track record of his superstar father, Will Smith, who has had only two debuts bigger than The Karate Kid (I Am Legend at $77.2 million and Hancock at $62.6 million). Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith are producers on The Karate Kid.

The A-Team features Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel in a tale of former Army Rangers trying to clear their names after they are framed for a crime they did not commit.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres:

1. The Karate Kid, $56 million.

2. The A-Team, $26 million.

3. Shrek Forever After, $15.8 million.

4. Get Him to the Greek, $10.1 million.

5. Killers, $8.2 million.

6. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, $6.6 million.

7. Marmaduke, $6 million.

8. Sex and the City 2, $5.5 million.

9. Iron Man 2, $4.6 million.

10. Splice, $2.9 million.