White-House-under-siege thriller "Olympus Has Fallen" debuted this weekend in second place with an estimated $30.5 million, a full $14 million behind the top finisher, new cartoon "The Croods." Nonetheless, it's "Olympus" that looks like the big winner this week, for several reasons:

It outperformed expectations. Going into this weekend, pundits predicted that "Olympus" would open at around $21 million. After all, it was playing against last week's surprise hit, still-strong thriller "The Call." Nonetheless, the Antoine Fuqua-directed drama earned excellent word-of-mouth (as measured by an A- grade from CinemaScore). Plus, it bucked a number of prevailing trends, such as...

It's the top R-rated action movie opening of the year to date. This year has seen a number of old-school action thrillers fail, including "The Last Stand," "Parker," and "Bullet to the Head." Others have underperformed, including "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" and "A Good Day to Die Hard." "The Call" did better than expected, but none of these thrillers has enjoyed an opening on the scale of "Olympus." The only R-rated movie that has opened bigger this year was the comedy "Identity Thief," with $34.6 million.

It's Gerard Butler's biggest hit in ages. In fact, it's been three years since his last big domestic film, the action comedy "The Bounty Hunter." In fact, the "Olympus" opening is roughly equal to the total domestic gross of Butler's last five movies combined. It's no surprise that "Olympus" is also the first movie in ages that puts him back in the humorless-action-hero mode that first made him a big star in "300."

It's the biggest opening ever for FilmDistrict. The relatively new indie distributor has released a dozen movies since it launched two years ago. Before "Olympus," the company's biggest opening belonged to last fall's "Red Dawn" remake, which premiered with $14.3 million, on its way to a total of $44.8 million in North America. The studio's top-grossing film to date is its first, 2011's horror film "Insidious," with $54.0 million domestic. "Olympus" has a good shot at surpassing that final figure, even with competition from "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" coming next weekend.

It gets to steal the thunder of "White House Down." Disaster movie maven Roland Emmerich's upcoming film has a similar premise, a much bigger budget, and bigger stars (including Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx). But "Olympus" has a three-month head start. When "White House Down" opens, it will face inevitable comparisons to "Olympus," and critics will be inclined to call the later movie a retread of a familiar premise, even if the execution turns out to be better. And audiences, too, will feel like they've already seen the movie. Maybe there's room for two commandos-seize-the-White-House movies, but right now, "Olympus" has the upper hand.
Olympus Has Fallen Movie Poster
Olympus Has Fallen
Based on 31 critics

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