How Does 'Ben-Hur' Stack Up Against Its Legendary Predecessors?

Paramount did protect itself financially on "Ben-Hur" by teaming with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which paid for 80 percent of the production costs.

It's possible that some of the target audience for War Dogs, namely adults, may have been lost to Sausage Party, as the latter is becoming the "must see" movie of the summer. The fifth in a string of adaptations of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, the epic action drama made a rather dismal $11.35m over the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo - which isn't great news, considering the film's estimated $100m budget. The west Texas crime thriller made an impressive $2.65 million and had per-screen average better than first-place finisher Suicide Squad. BFG netted about $18 million on its opening weekend, a stark contrast against its $140 million budget.

One of the biggest challenges Paramount faced was how to top the 1959 Charlton Heston classic, which won 11 Oscars, was a huge financial success and is considered a landmark Hollywood epic. The Los Angeles-based, Viacom Inc. -owned company is ranked No. 5 out of the six major studios in terms of domestic box-office market share this year, ahead of Sony Pictures. Sausage Party and War Dogs trailed close behind.

The figure is especially disheartening considering the film's budget, a hefty $100 million.

Two other new releases also had better openings than Ben-Hur. It met analyst projections of $12 million to $15 million and is a respectable start for a film that cost less than $50 million to make.

Another new entry - Kubo and the Two Strings - landed at number four after taking $12.6m (£9.7m).

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's R-rated animated comedy Sausage Party lands in second place with $15.3 million (GBP11.7 million), and Miles Teller and Jonah Hill's new film War Dogs, in which they portray unlikely worldwide arms dealers, opens in third with $14.3 million (GBP10.9 million).

The head of distribution for the studio, Megan Colligan, explained that in remaking a classic movie, such as Ben-Hur, they end up getting put under a much more intense microscope. The historical biographical film, in which Ms. Portman also stars, debuted to $36,000 from two theaters in NY and Los Angeles for an average of $18,000.

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