Eva Green in “300: Rise of an Empire.” (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP.)


WITH THE OSCARS’ red carpet rolled up for another season, it’s apparently time for cartoon-based characters to again rule the box office.

The “300” franchise (based on comics by Frank Miller) and the CGI-animated “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (based on characters, of course, from the Rocky and Bullwinkle series of the ’60s) dominated this weekend’s moviegoing, according to studio estimates released Sunday. Final numbers are due Monday.

Seven years after the original “300” slayed all comers at the box office, “300: Rise of an Empire” won the weekend, grossing $45.1-million in its domestic debut. “300” was based on Miller’s fictional take on the Battle of Thermopylae in his same-named 1998 graphic novel with Lynn Varley. “Rise of an Empire” has its roots in Miller’s yet-to-be-released graphic novel “Xerxes.”

The Olney, Md.-born Miller — who has a writing credit on both “300” films — next co-directs the upcoming sequel “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” with Robert Rodriguez.

“Rise of an Empire” also grossed an impressive $87.8 million in foreign markets — and has already reached $132.9-million total. The blood-soaked “300” franchise “translates to virtually every culture. Every country can appreciate the visuals of these movies,” Paul Dergarabedian of the box-office tracker Rentrak told the Associated Press.

Warner Bros. exec Jeff Goldstein also cited the “female empowerment” appeal of the new film’s Eva Green (“Casino Royale,” “The Dreamers”), who will also star in this year’s “Sin City” sequel.

Fox’s “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” was second for the weekend, grossing $32.5-million in its domestic debut. That’s a fair opening for a film that needs to really perform; it reportedly cost $140-million to make. “Mr. Peabody” grossed $65.8-million in overseas markets — for a total take of $98.3-million.

“Mr. Peabody” had to take on another film with strong family-demo appeal: Warner Bros.’ “The LEGO Movie” was fourth this weekend with $11 million — and has now grossed $360.6-million worldwide.

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* “300: Rise of an Empire” is the second biggest domestic opening ever for a Dark Horse comic, topping Fox’s “Alien vs. Predator” ($38.29-million debut), and trailing only its series predecessor: “300” bowed in with a muscular $70.89-million tally.

* “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” had the second-best opening for an animated film adapted from TV, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com (whose stats for this list begin in 1980). Towering in this category is still Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie” ($74-million). Depending on Monday’s final numbers, however,”Mr. Peabody” could yet dip behind the third-place film: Paramount’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” ($32.01-million).

* “Mr. Peabody” had the fourth-biggest opening ever for a dog flick (dating from 1974) — trailing only “Scooby-Doo,” “Marley & Me” and 1996’s “101 Dalmatians.”

* “Mr. Peabody” also is No. 18 on the list of DreamWorks Animation openings, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. Tops is “Shrek the Third” ($121.6-million).

The weekend’s domestic Top-10, according to Rentrak:

1. “300: Rise of an Empire,” $45.1 million;

2. “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” $32.5 million;

3. “Non-Stop,” $15.4 million;

4. “The LEGO Movie,” $11 million;

5. “Son of God,” $10 million;

6. “The Monuments Men,” $3.1 million;

7. “3 Days to Kill,” $3.1 million;

8. “Frozen,” $3 million;

9. “12 Years a Slave,” $2.2 million;

10. “Ride Along,” $2 million.


Sherman (voiced by Max Charles), left, and Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) in “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.” (DreamWorks Animation via AP.)