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'The Meg' bites off strong $44.5-M debut

Jason Statham stars in shark movie 'The Meg.' Handout

LOS ANGELES — "The Meg" devoured the competition at the domestic box office.

Warner Bros.' big-budget shark thriller opened well above expectations, biting off $ 44.5 million when it opened in 4,118 North American locations. That was easily enough to nab the No. 1 slot over "Mission: Impossible – Fallout," which picked up $ 20 million in its third outing.

"The Meg," which is a co-production with China, will still have to secure big returns overseas to justify its expensive $ 130 million production budget.

Fellow newcomer "BlacKkKlansman" debut in fifth place with $ 10.8 million in 1,500 locations, earning director Spike Lee his best opening in over a decade. Lee's Cannes Grand Prix winning crime drama, which debuted on the first anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville rally, has maintained enthusiasm with a promising 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and A- CinemaScore.

Horror auteurs Jason Blum and Jordan Peele co-produced the Focus Features title, which tells the true story of black detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), who goes undercover — with the help of Jewish cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) — to infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Prior to "BlacKkKlansman," Lee's 2006 film "Inside Man" launched with $ 28 million. His latest outing, "Chi-Raq," picked up $ 2.5 million during its limited theatrical run ahead of an Amazon release.

Sony's "Slender Man," also debuted nationwide this weekend, landing in fourth with $ 11 million in 2,358 locations. That's a solid start given the low-budget thriller carries a $ 10 million price tag.

The final weekend opener, "Dog Days," picked up $ 2.6 million when it launched in 2,442 locations.

Meanwhile, Disney's "Christopher Robin" earned $ 12.7 million in its sophomore frame, landing the fantasy drama based on the characters from Winnie the Pooh in third place. To date, it has generated $ 50.3 million in North America.

At the speciality box office, Magnolia Pictures' "Skate Kitchen" bowed with $ 17,000 when it opened in just one location. The best per-screen-average, however, went to Oscilloscope's "Madeline's Madeline," which pocketed $ 20,000 from one venue.

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