Credit: Daniel McFadden

The buzz around Universal’s Ethan Hawke thriller The Purge seemed like it was swelling heading into the weekend, but no one could have guessed that the film would over-perform the way it did yesterday.

The Purge earned an incredible $16.7 million on its first Friday (technically, that number includes Thursday night), and it’s headed to an opening-weekend gross of about $37 million, giving producer Jason Blum, the man behind the Paranormal Activity series, another runaway hit. The best part about all this for Universal? The Purge‘s budget was only $3 million.

It was a mixed bag of news for Fox’s Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy The Internship, which came in second. On the one hand, the film exceeded lowered expectations with $6.6 million on Friday, putting the $58 million movie on pace for an $18-19 million opening weekend. On the other hand, that’s a rather tepid result for the duo that helped Wedding Crashers climb to $209 million total back in 2005. Certainly not a disaster, though!

Two films finished close behind The Internship and may surpass it by the end of the weekend. Fast & Furious 6 drove away with $6.1 million, while Now You See Me held strong with $6 million (a Friday-to-Friday drop of just 40 percent), and both films may finish the frame with just over $20 million, lifting their totals to $203 million and $62 million, respectively.

Epic rounded out the Top 5 with a $3.6 million Friday haul. Fox’s $100 million animated film should take in about $13 million by Sunday night, giving it $85 million total after three weekends.

1. The Purge – $16.7 million

2. The Internship – $6.6 million

3. Fast & Furious 6 – $6.1 million

4. Now You See Me – $6.0 million

5. Epic – $3.6 million

Check back tomorrow for the full box office report, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates and box office conversation.

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