Weekend Box Office (March 11 - 13, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Sony ruled the North American box office with its fourth number one opening of the year as the alien invasion thriller Battle: Los Angeles debuted on top attracting a sizable action crowd. The stylish fairy tale pic Red Riding Hood bowed in third grossing less than expected while the animated adventure Mars Needs Moms struggled to find families with a poor launch in fifth place. The overall marketplace continued to fall behind year-ago levels as the entire weekend box office for all films in release fell below the top ten from last year.

Male action fans, missing in action for so long, turned up for the military actioner Battle: Los Angeles which topped the charts with $35.6M, according to final studio figures, marking the year's second biggest opening behind last weekend's $38.1M for Rango. The PG-13 alien attack flick averaged a strong $10,411 from 3,417 locations and performed much like Sony's 2009 hit District 9 which bowed to $37.4M. That film opened in the summer and earned much better reviews, but also carried an R rating and boasted no starpower. Battle received weak marks from critics but featured recognizable cast members like Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, and singer-actor Ne-Yo.

The studio's marketing efforts worked wonders making the disaster film seem like an exciting action vehicle that could also play to sci-fi fans. Males made up 68% of the crowd according to studio research while 55% were over 25. With two cartoons and little red riding hood in the top five, this audience had little else to rally behind. Filmed in Louisiana and produced for $70M after tax rebates, the global destruction pic topped the box office in many overseas territories too. The film grossed an estimated $16.7M from 33 markets including top spot bows in Russia, Korea, the U.K., India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Columbia. The worldwide opening weekend stood at $52.3M.

Johnny Depp's animated comedy Rango dropped from first place to the runner-up spot this weekend but held up well grossing $22.6M. Off just 41%, the PG-rated toon boosted its ten-day tally to an impressive $68.2M and is performing much like another March toon anchored by a big celebrity name - 2005's Robots. That Robin Williams-led pic debuted this very weekend six years ago to $36M (close to Rango's $38.1M bow) and slipped 42% in its sophomore frame to $21M and a $66.1M gross in ten days on its way to a $128.2M final. Rango should make it past the $120M mark as well.

Young women didn't show up in the expected numbers for the period thriller Red Riding Hood which opened in third with $14M from 3,030 theaters. Averaging a mediocre $4,622, the PG-13 pic starring Amanda Seyfried in a stylish reworking of the classic fairy tale got butchered by film critics and also failed to satisfy opening day patrons as its CinemaScore grade was a disappointing B-. There was not much direct competition for young females so Warner Bros. had that demographic to itself. But having a slick look, a teen love triangle, a star that's popular with the target demo, and the Twilight director wasn't enough.

Matt Damon's latest offering The Adjustment Bureau dropped a moderate 45% in its second weekend taking in $11.6M. Universal has collected $38.6M in ten days and should find itself with roughly $65M by the end of the domestic run. Overseas activity has not been too spectacular with an estimated $8.9M collected this weekend from 31 territories for an international cume of $24M.

The 3D animated adventure comedy Mars Needs Moms from producer Robert Zemeckis was shunned by family audiences and debuted to only $6.9M. Averaging a sluggish $2,218 from 3,117 theaters, including a very aggressive 211 IMAX screens, the Disney release earned the best reviews of the frame's new wide releases but failed to spark any excitement with its intended audience. Plus with rival toons Rango and Gnomeo & Juliet in the top ten collecting $26M in combined ticket sales, Mars struggled to stand out as a must-see pic. Produced for a reported $150M, the PG-rated film is a pricey misfire for Zemeckis' ImageMovers which was recently shut down. Its previous film, A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey, grossed $325M worldwide but was also a very expensive project with a budget near the $200M mark making profitability on motion-capture CGI films difficult.

Two films followed with $5M each. CBS Films saw a 49% drop for its teen romance Beastly which has banked $16.9M in ten days on its way to $26-28M overall. The Farrelly brothers comedy Hall Pass enjoyed another good hold slipping just 43% for a mild 17-day total of $34.8M.

Adam Sandler's Just Go With It followed with $4M, down 38%, raising the cume to $94M making it the second highest-grossing 2011 release after the $97.5M of The Green Hornet. Both are Sony titles. The hit 3D animation entry Gnomeo & Juliet suffered the worst decline in the top ten thanks to another toon entering the marketplace and tumbled 50% to $3.6M. With $89.1M to date, the sleeper comedy ranks as the year's third highest grosser. With its Oscar glow fading, The King's Speech fell 43% to $3.6M for The Weinstein Co. for a $129M total.

Focus enjoyed a scorching debut for its period drama Jane Eyre which platformed in New York and Los Angeles in a pair of theaters in each city ringing up $182,885 for a sensational $45,721 average. Headlined by Mia Wasikowska who had a banner year in 2010 playing the title character in the megahit Alice in Wonderland and starring in the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right, the PG-13 film attracted solid reviews and expands to eight additional markets next weekend before going much wider on March 25. Also in limited release, the mob thriller Kill the Irishman had a strong start debuting to $145,430 from five locations for a sturdy $29,086 average for Anchor Bay.

The top ten films grossed $111.9M which was down 14% from last year when Alice in Wonderland stayed in the top spot with $62.7M; but up 33% from 2009 when Race to Witch Mountain debuted at number one with $24.4M.

Compared to projections, Battle: Los Angeles opened ahead of my $27M forecast while Red Riding Hood debuted below my $22M prediction. Mars Needs Moms bowed to less than half of my $17M forecast.

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

Check the UPDATED box office chart for the Top March Openings.

For a NEW review of Battle: Los Angeles visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Limitless, Paul, and The Lincoln Lawyer all open.

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

# Title Mar 11 - 13 Mar 4 - 6 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Battle: Los Angeles $ 35,573,187 3,417 1 $ 10,411 $ 35,573,187 Sony
2 Rango 22,602,847 38,079,323 -40.6 3,923 2 5,762 68,206,101 Paramount
3 Red Riding Hood 14,005,335 3,030 1 4,622 14,005,335 Warner Bros.
4 The Adjustment Bureau 11,597,335 21,157,730 -45.2 2,847 2 4,074 38,589,595 Universal
5 Mars Needs Moms 6,914,488 3,117 1 2,218 6,914,488 Disney
6 Beastly 5,021,232 9,851,102 -49.0 1,959 2 2,563 16,911,633 CBS Films
7 Hall Pass 5,011,020 8,861,053 -43.4 2,555 3 1,961 34,842,289 Warner Bros.
8 Just Go With It 4,019,266 6,431,246 -37.5 2,398 5 1,676 94,000,847 Sony
9 Gnomeo & Juliet 3,617,255 7,240,315 -50.0 2,585 5 1,399 89,102,365 Disney
10 The King's Speech 3,573,112 6,230,227 -42.6 1,768 16 2,021 129,010,235 Weinstein Co.
11 Unknown 3,366,339 6,520,232 -48.4 2,303 4 1,462 58,410,845 Warner Bros.
12 I Am Number Four 2,260,314 5,750,190 -60.7 2,005 4 1,127 50,455,723 Disney
13 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 1,378,830 4,277,128 -67.8 1,247 5 1,106 70,955,641 Paramount
14 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son 1,306,504 3,281,157 -60.2 931 4 1,403 35,162,958 Fox
15 Take Me Home Tonight 1,272,239 3,464,679 -63.3 2,003 2 635 5,891,092 Relativity
16 Cedar Rapids 921,038 821,124 12.2 394 5 2,338 4,597,332 Fox Searchlight
17 Tangled 640,753 790,248 -18.9 363 16 1,765 196,675,983 Disney
18 The Fighter 576,083 1,118,397 -48.5 463 14 1,244 92,931,288 Paramount
19 Yogi Bear 476,341 228,330 108.6 404 13 1,179 98,677,804 Warner Bros.
20 Black Swan 440,504 1,012,346 -56.5 337 15 1,307 105,928,217 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 90,693,192 $ 85,189,523 6.5
Top 10 111,935,077 114,398,546 -2.2
Top 20 124,574,022 129,137,807 -3.5
Top 20 vs. 2010 124,574,022 143,409,749 -13.1

Last Updated: March 14, 2011 at 6:10PM ET

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