Weekend Box Office (February 25 - 27, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND In a reversal of what was reported on Sunday with studio estimates, the Owen Wilson comedy Hall Pass debuted in first place while the animated hit Gnomeo & Juliet finished a hair behind in second in its third session. Nicolas Cage's latest action effort Drive Angry crashed and burned with an embarrassing ninth place debut for the actor who won an Oscar 15 years ago this spring.

The Farrelly brothers, the ex-kings of raunchy comedies, scored their first number one hit in over a decade as their vacation-from-marriage pic Hall Pass debuted on top with $13.5M from 2,950 theaters for a mild $4,588 average, according to final studio figures. Falling below industry expectations, the R-rated film starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis failed to excite its target adult audience and its story about two husbands granted a no-questions-asked week away from their marriages turned off many women.

Reviews were mostly bad and starpower wasn't ample with Wilson just seen in two December comedies and Sudeikis never anchoring a feature film before. It was the worst gross for a number one opener since Labor Day weekend's The American which bowed to $13.2M over three days.

Thanks to strong legs and weak results from new releases, Disney's 3D hit Gnomeo & Juliet finished close behind in second with $13.4M in its third weekend. Off just 30%, the G-rated tale has pulled in a stellar $74.3M and is headed for $110M or more. Solid word-of-mouth from kids and parents plus a lack of other family options has helped. This Friday, a new animated competitor arrives in the form of Johnny Depp's Rango which is being backed by a massive marketing and distribution assault. However, that PG-rated pic may play a little older since its rating is due to "rude humor" and "smoking" so it may not hurt Gnomeo's hold on younger children.

Falling from first to third was Liam Neeson's action thriller Unknown which dropped a moderate 43% to $12.6M for a ten-day total of $43M. Warner Bros. should end its domestic run with about $70M. Fellow sophomore I Am Number Four grossed $11M thanks to a 43% decline, a good hold for a sci-fi flick with a built-in audience. With $37.7M in ten days, Disney should end up with around $60M.

Adam Sandler's Just Go With It followed with $10.5M, down 43%, for a $78.8M cume for Sony. Paramount added more 3D footage to its tween sensation Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and fans responded with a weekend dip of only 30% to $9.4M. A film like this would normally fall by more than 50% at this point in its run. Total stands at an impressive $63M.

Best Picture Oscar winner The King's Speech added 300 more runs over its big weekend and rose 12% to $7.3M. That put The Weinstein Co. at a robust $114.2M with more to come in the weeks ahead thanks to its four gold statues. Close behind with $7.3M was a film likely to receive less Oscar attention next awards season, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. Fox's Martin Lawrence threequel fell 53% in its second frame and has banked $28.6M in ten days. Look for a $40M final and possible Razzie nods.

In one of the worst showings ever for both Nicolas Cage and the 3D format, the action film Drive Angry bombed in its opening grossing a puny $5.2M. The Summit release averaged a lousy $2,265 from 2,290 theaters and failed to excite paying moviegoers. The marketing emphasized that the R-rated film was actually shot in 3D and wasn't a conversion, but action fans still found no need in spending top dollar on Cage's second film in as many months. His Season of the Witch also struck out with its $10.6M debut in January.

Rounding out the weak top ten was True Grit which was shut out on Oscar night despite ten nominations. The Jeff Bridges pic fell only 19% to $1.9M in its tenth frame raising Paramount's total to a solid $167.1M.

Below the top ten, Oscar winners enjoyed good holds as awards season came to an end. Among Best Picture nominees, The Fighter rose 1% to $1.6M and Black Swan suffered no decline with $1.3M. Totals stand at $90.4M and $103.6M respectively. Seven of the ten Best Picture nominees have now grossed over $90M.

The top ten films grossed $92.5M which was down 11% from last year when Shutter Island stayed in the top spot with $22.7M; but up 15% from 2009 when Madea Goes to Jail remained at number one with $16.2M. The Academy Awards did not fall on either of those frames.

Compared to projections, Hall Pass opened a bit below my $16M forecast while Drive Angry debuted to half of my $11M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED box office chart for the Oscar Winners.

For a NEW review of Hall Pass visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Rango, The Adjustment Bureau, Take Me Home Tonight, and Beastly all open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Feb 25 - 27 Feb 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hall Pass $ 13,535,374 2,950 1 $ 4,588 $ 13,535,374 Warner Bros.
2 Gnomeo & Juliet 13,400,130 19,154,010 -30.0 3,037 3 4,412 74,334,236 Disney
3 Unknown 12,571,282 21,856,389 -42.5 3,043 2 4,131 42,976,450 Warner Bros.
4 I Am Number Four 11,016,126 19,449,893 -43.4 3,156 2 3,491 37,723,940 Disney
5 Just Go With It 10,532,244 18,478,226 -43.0 3,544 3 2,972 78,787,066 Sony
6 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 9,387,250 13,307,933 -29.5 2,810 3 3,341 62,963,741 Paramount
7 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son 7,623,276 16,300,803 -53.2 2,821 2 2,702 28,647,519 Fox
8 The King's Speech 7,339,759 6,529,530 12.4 2,385 14 3,077 114,231,030 Weinstein Co.
9 Drive Angry 5,187,625 2,290 1 2,265 5,187,625 Summit
10 True Grit 1,947,092 2,410,521 -19.2 1,222 10 1,593 167,132,442 Paramount
11 The Roommate 1,940,609 3,909,742 -50.4 1,726 4 1,124 35,818,227 Sony
12 The Eagle 1,587,177 3,645,485 -56.5 1,568 3 1,012 18,341,824 Focus
13 The Fighter 1,576,103 1,567,302 0.6 668 12 2,359 90,369,463 Paramount
14 No Strings Attached 1,450,649 3,080,033 -52.9 1,366 6 1,062 68,760,038 Paramount
15 Black Swan 1,327,844 1,327,788 0.0 617 13 2,152 103,576,418 Fox Searchlight
16 The Grace Card 1,010,299 352 1 2,870 1,010,299 Samuel Goldwyn
17 Cedar Rapids 664,730 910,448 -27.0 136 3 4,888 2,349,996 Fox Searchlight
18 The Green Hornet 663,895 1,524,622 -56.5 667 7 995 96,637,321 Sony
19 The Rite 479,351 1,130,106 -57.6 545 5 880 32,310,529 Warner Bros.
20 Barney's Version 460,811 620,081 -25.7 299 7 1,541 2,701,805 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 61,055,156 $ 95,239,321 -35.9
Top 10 92,540,158 125,712,044 -26.4
Top 20 103,701,626 138,382,270 -25.1
Top 20 vs. 2010 103,701,626 113,569,155 -8.7

Last Updated: February 28, 2011 at 10:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.