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Boxing robots take over box office

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Hugh Jackman, left, and Dakota Goyo face off in a scene from "Real Steel." The film is set in the near-future when robot fighters have replaced humans in the ring. The film debuted at No. 1 with $27.3 million. The "Real Steel" added $22.1 million in 19 overseas markets for a worldwide total of $49.4 million.

Disney/DreamWorks II Enlarge

LOS ANGELES — Boxing robots are the undisputed champions at the weekend box office.

Hugh Jackman’s “Real Steel,” set in a near-future when robot fighters have replaced humans in the ring, debuted at No. 1 with $27.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

A DreamWorks release distributed by Disney, “Real Steel” added $22.1 million in 19 overseas markets for a worldwide total of $49.4 million. The movie casts Jackman as a former boxer reluctantly thrown together with his young son as they turn a junkyard robot into a world-class contender.

George Clooney’s political saga “The Ides of March” was the runner-up, opening at No. 2 with $10.4 million. The Sony release stars Ryan Gosling as an aide to a presidential candidate (Clooney) caught up in scandal. Clooney also directed.

The previous No. 1 movie, the Warner Bros. family film “Dolphin Tale,” slipped to No. 3 with $9.2 million, raising its domestic total to $49.1 million.

Males accounted for two-thirds of the audience for “Real Steel,” though Jackman’s sex appeal and a romantic subplot involving co-star Evangeline Lilly was a draw for women, said Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution. The movie brought in a solid mix of couples and parents with children, he said.

“The men might have been more attracted to this idea of boxing robots and the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em part of it. For women, it was more Hugh and the Hugh and Evangeline angle,” Holis said. “For families, it’s this father-son story and the somewhat redemptive rise to glory toward the end.”

“The Ides of March” presents an acting dream team, with Academy Award winners Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei in great form opposite Oscar nominees Gosling and Paul Giamatti.

“It’s one thing to have a great cast of actors like we have in this film, but it’s really cool watching them chew it up,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony.

Other than the sizable opening for “Real Steel,” it was a typically quiet fall weekend at theaters, a lull before big holiday movies start arriving in late October and early November.

Overall domestic revenues totaled $94 million, virtually identical to the same weekend a year ago, when “The Social Network” led with $15.5 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

“’Real Steel’ felt like a summer movie, and I think that appealed to family audiences,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “If you release a summer-style movie in the fall, you can still grab a pretty good audience.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Real Steel,” $27.3 million ($22.1 million international).

2. “The Ides of March,” $10.4 million.

3. “Dolphin Tale,” $9.2 million.

4. “Moneyball,” $7.5 million.

5. “50/50,” $5.5 million.

6. “Courageous,” $4.6 million.

7. “The Lion King,” $4.55 million ($7.3 million international).

8. “Dream House,” $4.5 million.

9. “What’s Your Number?”, $3.1 million ($2.8 million international).

10. “Abduction,” $2.9 million ($4 million international).

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