'Shazam!' tops the US box office second week in a row

Zachary Levi, left, and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from "Shazam!". (AP)
Zachary Levi, left, and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from "Shazam!". (AP)

New York — A rush of newcomers couldn't shake Shazam! from the top spot, as the superhero comedy led the box office for the second straight weekend with $25.1m in ticket sales, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

Lionsgate's Hellboy reboot, the animated Laika Studios release Missing Link, the college romance After and even the long-delayed Mary Magdalene, originally to be released by the Weinstein Co., all opened in theatres. But the strongest new release of them all was, predictably, the Will Packer-produced one: Little.

The body-swap comedy Little came in second with $15.5m for Universal Pictures. Made for just $20m, Little is just the most recent profit-maker for Packer, the Girls Trip producer.

The film, directed by Tina Gordon Chism, stars 14-year-old Marsai Martin as the child an abusive tech executive (Regina Hall) reverts to after a magical spell is cast on her. Martin, the black-ish star, also executive produced the film, the youngest ever so credited in Hollywood history.

Little drew a largely female (65 and African American (43%)) audience. Jim Orr, Universal Pictures distribution chief, credited the cast, Chism's direction and Packer's overall know-how.

"He's done it with different kinds of films. Breaking In was a thriller, Girls Trip was an R-rated comedy. Little is kind of an all-ages film, PG-13 rated,'" said Orr, whose studio signed a first-look deal with Packer in 2013. "He's a brand. And he has a great idea of what is going to be successful at the box office."

It was an out-of-body weekend at the box office. The body-swap comic-book adaptation Shazam! — about a teenage boy (Asher Angel) who can turn into an adult-sized superhero (Zachary Levi) with a simple command — held solidly in its second week. Capitalising on good reviews and word-of-mouth, Shazam! is Warner Bros.' New Line's latest DC Comics success. It has grossed $94.9m through Sunday with a worldwide total of $258.8m.

Lionsgate and Millennium's Hellboy had been expected by many to vie with Shazam! on the weekend. But on the heels of terrible reviews (just 15% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), it flopped with $12m against a $50m budget.

That's significantly less than the debuts of the 2004 original ($23m opening) and the 2008 sequel ($34.5m opening). Those films were directed by Guillermo de Toro and starred Ron Perlman; the new Hellboy stars David Harbour (Stranger Things) and is directed by Neil Marshall.

Missing Link also missed. It opened with a disappointing $5.8m, marking a new low for Laika, the maker of eccentric animated tales such as CoralineParaNorman and Kubo and the Two Strings. Missing Link, distributed by United Artists Releasing, is about the discovery of a creature in the Pacific Northwest. Its voice cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Hugh Jackman and Zoe Saldana.

Expectations had varied widely for Aviron Pictures' After, an adaption of Anna Todd's 2014 best-seller. The young-adult drama fared well with $6.2m in 2 138 theatres.

And Mary Magdalene, starring Rooney Mara as Mary and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus, finally opened, more than three years after production. Harvey Weinstein had once conceived of the film, directed by Garth Davis (Lion) as his next Oscar contender.

After the fallout of Weinstein and the bankruptcy of the Weinstein Co., IFC Films acquired the biblical biopic. Critics dismissed it (44% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences mostly did, too. It grossed about $62 000 on 62 screens.