Less costly ... Channing Tatum, left, and Jonah Hill star in <i>22 Jump Street</i>.

Less costly ... Channing Tatum, left, and Jonah Hill star in 22 Jump Street.

22 Jump Street, the cop comedy starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, topped the box office in its debut, marking the second straight weekend in which a less costly film outsold a big-budget production.

The Sony sequel to 2012's 21 Jump Street collected $US60 million ($64m) at US and Canadian theaters, beating DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon 2 by $US10 million, Rentrak Corp said.

The No.1 debut of 22 Jump Street follows the opening last weekend of The Fault in Our Stars, the romantic teen drama that was made for an estimated $US12 million and beat out Warner Bros' $US178 million Tom Cruise production, Edge of Tomorrow. Sony's new movie gives a lift to the studio, whose The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has generated more than $US700 million at the global box office.

Disappointing result for Dreamworks' <i>How To Train Your Dragon 2</i>.

Disappointing result for Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon 2.

"We have a big hit on our hands and it's certainly because of Jonah and Channing," said Rory Bruer, Sony's president of worldwide distribution.

The studio, he said, is "very confident about the rest of our summer and all the way into the fall, and including Christmas. It is a good time for us."

22 Jump Street was projected to generate $US65 million in its debut, according to BoxOffice.com. Sony expected the R-rated film, made for $US50 million, to generate $US45 million to $US50 million its first weekend. Its $US60 million in receipts makes it the second-highest R-rated debut, Rentrak said, behind The Hangover Part II ($US85.9 million) in 2011.

The movie was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with Hill co-writing the story. Its predecessor generated ticket sales of $US36.3 million in its domestic debut and grossed $US201.6 million worldwide in 2012, according to Box Office Mojo.

In the new movie, the pair go undercover at a local college to crack a case. Their partnership is tested when Tatum's character meets a kindred spirit on the football team and Hill's infiltrates the bohemian art-major scene.

The sequel was well-received by critics, generating an 83 per cent positive rating on Rottentomatoes.com, a reviews aggregator.

"More is more and is, at times, just right in 22 Jump Street, an exploding pinata of gags, pratfalls, winking asides, throwaway one-liners and self-reflexive waggery," wrote Manohla Dargis, in a review for The New York Times.

Sony's last wide-release film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, opened with sales at the low end of analysts' projections. The film, which cost an estimated $US200 million to produce, is unlikely to make a substantial profit until it's released through home-entertainment channels, according to Wade Holden, a research analyst at SNL Kagan.

"For the company, it's going to be a very profitable movie," Sony's Bruer said.

The cost of making a movie doesn't include marketing expenses. Studios split ticket revenue with theaters.

How to Train Your Dragon 2, distributed by 21st Century Fox, had $US50 million in sales. It was forecast to bring in $US64 million in its weekend debut, according to BoxOffice.com. The first film, distributed by Paramount Pictures in 2010, cost $165 million to make and generated $US494.9 million worldwide.

"It's a disappointing opening, but kids' movies tend to have a pretty long shelf life throughout the summer," said Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries in New Jersey. "Given the positive reviews and popularity of the franchise, this movie should play well over the next several weeks at least."

The new film opened to favorable reviews garnering a 92 per cent positive rating on review aggregator, Rottentomatoes.com.

"The animation is crisper than ever," wrote Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. "It's a rip-roaring ride."

How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up the story of the Viking Hiccup and his dragon friend Toothless. When they discover an ice cave, two find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.

Like the first movie, the film is based on the 11-book young-adult book series by writer Cressida Cowell.

Walt Disney maintained third-place ranking among domestic distributors this year with Maleficent collecting $US19 million in its third weekend. The Angelina Jolie-led feature has generated domestic sales of $US163.5 million, according to Rentak.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films fell 6 per cent to $181.4 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales year to date are $US4.7 billion, up 3 percent from the year-earlier period.

The Washington Post