David Ayers' "Fury" hit theaters hard this weekend and the World War II era drama easily took down two-time champ "Gone Girl" with $23.5 million.  Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and Logan Lerman, among others, "Fury" is reported to have cost $68 million.  This writer has heard it actually cost over $100 million, but we'll go with the studio's number at this point.  The one thing everyone can agree on, however, is that "Fury" was fully financed by QED International and it will need significant international returns to break even.  Considering Pitt's overseas star power that may not be a concern.  "Fury" also marks Sony Pictures third no. 1 opener in a row after Screen Gems' surprise hit "No Good Deed" and Columbia Pictures' "The Equalizer."

David Fincher's "Gone Girl" dropped to no. 2, but New Regency and 20th Century Fox are still smiling.  "Girl" surpassed the $100 million mark in just its third weekend with $17.8 million over the three-day frame and $107 million to date. "Girl" should eventually surpass "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" as Fincher's highest grossing domestic release ever.  Whether Ben Affleck manages to match the $136 million "Argo" made two years ago remains to be seen, but "Girl" already marks a career best for stars Tyler Perry and Rosamund Pike.

Debuting at no. 3 was Jorge R. Gutierrez's animated feature "Book of Life." The positively reviewed film took in $17 million over its first three days.  Distributor 20th Century Fox will look at the movie's A- Cinemascore and a lack of big animated competition until Nov. 7 as signs that "Life" could match its $50 million production budget in the U.S.  Overseas, "Life" has an excellent chance of turning a profit especially in Latin and South America where Hispanic audiences are rarely the subject of broad animated films.

Walt Disney Studio's "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good Day" dropped only 34% which was impressive considering "Life" was also competing for the same audience.  "Good Day" earned another $12 million for $36.8 million in its first 10 days.  The family flick should easily surpass the $50 million mark which seems to be Disney's current benchmark for its non-tentpole releases.

Relativity's "The Best of Me" disappointed earning just $10.2 million for no. 5.  This is the worst opening for a Nicholas Sparks movie ever.  The studio should eventually make back its reported $26 million production budget, but it will be a long time before "Best" comes close to breaking even.

In limited release, Alejandro González Iñárritu's critically acclaimed drama "Birdman" had a spectacular opening earning $415,000 in just four theaters.  That's a $103,750 per screen average, the second best of the year after "Grand Budapest Hotel opened with a " $202,792 per screen in March.  "Birdman" will continue to expand over the next few months as it rides an awards season wave and expected best picture nomination come January.

Another critic's favorite, "Dear White People," found a superb $344,000 in 11 theaters for a $31,273 per screen.  "Dear White People" ran a tremendous publicity and online marketing campaign (credit for the latter probably needs to go to the film's director Justin Simien who used to do this for a living) and pulled out a great per screen while opening in non-traditional first weekend art house markets such as Atlanta and Washington.  Roadside will really know what it has on its hands when "Dear White People" expands nationwide on Friday.

New release on Friday included the aforementioned expansion of "Dear White People," Universal Pictures' horror flick "Ouija" and Lionsgate's thriller "John Wick."

Box office actuals are released on Monday.

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.