Weekend Box Office (March 14 - 16, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The top ten was littered with new faces as smaller films performed better than larger ones. The street racing actioner Need For Speed and Tyler Perry's comedy The Single Moms Club both underperformed while indie pics The Grand Budapest Hotel and Veronica Mars jumped onto the list with the best averages. Overall, the domestic marketplace performed at normal levels for mid-March but it was a cartoon holdover that seized control of the number one spot.

DreamWorks Animation captured the box office crown with its latest film Mr. Peabody & Sherman which declined by only 32% to $21.8M in its second weekend to lead all films, according to final studio figures. The Fox release has collected $63.8M in ten days and could find its way to $135M or more in North America which would improve upon recent DreamWorks titles Turbo and Rise of the Guardians.

Peabody enjoyed a better second weekend hold than most previous animated films opening in March including The Croods, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, Monsters vs. Aliens, and the first two Ice Age flicks. The drop was even better than How To Train Your Dragon's from 2010 which was a durable hit that went on to gross five times its opening weekend take. The road ahead will not be easy for Sherman, though. Disney attacks this Friday with its heavily-hyped kidpic sequel Muppets Most Wanted followed three weeks later by Fox's Rio 2.

Falling from the box office throne was 300: Rise of an Empire which dropped by a reasonable 57% to $19.2M for second place. For a male-skewing action sequel, the decline was not too bad. The original 300, a pop culture phenomenon, fell by 54% in its sophomore frame this same month in 2007. Warner Bros. has taken in $78.4M in ten days and could be headed for a domestic final of $110-120M. Overseas, Empire grossed $41.3M from 62 markets this weekend boosting the international cume to $158M and the worldwide take to $236M.

Selling over 140 million video games apparently means little at the multiplexes. The game-inspired action thriller Need for Speed disappointed in its debut weekend grossing only $17.8M for a $5,729 average from 3,115 locations. Produced by DreamWorks Pictures and released by Disney, the PG-13 film played heavily to young men as expected. Studio research showed that guys made up 70% of the crowd while 56% were in the 18-34 age bracket. 3D accounted for 43% of the gross which was not bad by today's standards on a film like this which is more driven by stunts than special effects.

Need For Speed opened with less than half of the strength of the original Fast & Furious film which relied on 2001 ticket prices and no 3D. That surprise street racing hit debuted to $40.1M and an average of more than $15,000 which would be north of $20,000 at today's 2D prices. The CinemaScore on Need was a moderate B+.

Speed was banking on fans of the game to come out and buy tickets. But young males have become incredibly difficult to lure into multiplexes in recent years, especially outside of tentpole sequels and VFX-driven super hero flicks. Plus, Speed had no major names in the cast and awful reviews from critics. Outside of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning Lincoln, it's been tough times for DreamWorks Pictures with a string of duds like Delivery Man, The Fifth Estate, People Like Us, and A Thousand Words before Need For Speed came out.

International markets presented a brighter picture for Need For Speed. China opened strong this weekend with $21.2M (including $2.4M from 138 IMAX screens) beating out the domestic debut. $45.6M was grossed overseas this weekend making for a global start of $63.4M with key markets like Germany, France, Spain, Korea and Japan still to come. Produced for $66M and requiring a loud marketing push, Speed will need success from foreign markets to break even.

Liam Neeson enjoyed another good weekend for his action thriller Non-Stop which grossed $10.6M falling only 33% in its third round. The Universal hit has collected $68.8M thus far.

Tyler Perry's star continued to fade this weekend as the media mogul suffered the worst opening of his directing career with The Single Moms Club which bowed to $8.1M. That was less than half of the usual $20M or so that he routinely delivers on the first weekend of most films. The PG-13 pic averaged a mild $4,259 from 1,896 locations - again, low by Perry standards.

Club did earn a good A- CinemaScore grade and the audience skewed heavily towards adult women. Studio research showed that 79% was female and 80% was over 25. After releasing all his other work, Lionsgate recently decided not to renew its deal with Perry. His last film A Madea Christmas opened to $16M which was by far a new low for that character's films, however somewhat understandable for a pic opening during the holiday shopping season when debuts are generally lower. It did go on to break $50M like all past Madea flicks. Meet the Peeples, presented by Perry but not written or directed by him, was a clunker last summer with a $4.6M debut.

Toon hit The LEGO Movie followed with $7.7M, off 29%, for a robust $236.9M cume for Warner Bros. Worldwide tally is now $378.4M. Fox's Biblical film Son of God fell 47% to $5.5M and has banked $51M to date.

Wes Anderson's newest offering The Grand Budapest Hotel pulled off a perfect expansion jumping from four to 66 locations and grossing $3.6M for an eye-popping $55,122 average. Ranking eighth nationwide despite a limited release, Fox Searchlight's indie smash became the first film playing in under 100 theaters to hit the national top ten since the director's own Moonrise Kingdom from June 2012. With $4.8M to date, Hotel will expand into 40 new markets next weekend with roughly 300 total theaters. The film has posted numbers even bigger than Anderson's past hits suggesting his newest has appeal beyond his loyal fan base.

The music-filled juggernaut that is Frozen ranked ninth with $2.1M, down only 27%, for a $396.4M domestic haul on its way past the $400M mark, possibly by month's end. Disney's Oscar-winning smash has now spent its first 16 weeks of wide release in the top ten matching Chicago for the most among all films released since 1997's Titanic which spent 15 straight weeks at number one. Overseas, Frozen opened in its final market of Japan with a rare Friday release resulting in a big $9.4M debut weekend ahead of what should be a long run. The overseas tally soared to $630.2M for a global haul of $1.027 billion charging towards a $1.1 billion final. It releases domestically on Blu-ray this week while simultaneously being in the top ten theatrically.

Tenth place went to George Clooney's The Monuments Men with $2.1M, off 33%, putting Sony at $73.9M to date.

Snow sister Anna found herself just outside the top ten as Kristen Bell's Veronica Mars debuted to $2M from 291 theaters for a good $6,833 average. Backed by fans of the television series through a Kickstarter campaign, the indie film was extremely front-loaded as half of the sales came on opening day with Saturday plunging 39%. Fans who donated also got a digital copy to download, although many had technical problems with that platform. Warner Bros. handled distribution and reviews were fairly positive.

A year after conquering the box office with Identity Thief, Jason Bateman unleashed his directorial debut Bad Words in platform release and attracted commendable numbers from New York and Los Angeles. The raunchy spelling bee comedy bowed to $113,301 from six locations for a strong $18,884 average. Reviews were mixed for the R-rated pic which Focus expands Friday into the Top 20 markets before going nationwide the following week. Expanding at the same time as Budapest Hotel will be challenging, though, given the audience overlap.

The top ten films grossed $98.6M which was up 6% from last year when Oz the Great and Powerful stayed at number one with $41.3M; and up 5% from 2012 when 21 Jump Street took the top spot with $36.3M.

Compared to projections, Need For Speed came in below my $22M forecast while The Single Moms Club opened with half of my $19M prediction.

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

For a NEW review of Veronica Mars visit The Chief Report.

Watch the trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Divergent and Muppets Most Wanted both open.

# Title Mar 14 - 16 Mar 7 - 9 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Mr. Peabody & Sherman $ 21,809,249 $ 32,207,057 -32.3 3,951 2 $ 5,520 $ 63,789,165 Fox
2 300: Rise of an Empire 19,201,345 45,038,460 -57.4 3,490 2 5,502 78,406,898 Warner Bros.
3 Need for Speed 17,844,939 3,115 1 5,729 17,844,939 Disney
4 Non-Stop 10,615,305 15,829,605 -32.9 3,183 3 3,335 68,805,115 Universal
5 The Single Moms Club 8,075,111 1,896 1 4,259 8,075,111 Lionsgate
6 The LEGO Movie 7,701,309 10,911,385 -29.4 3,040 6 2,533 236,928,237 Warner Bros.
7 Son of God 5,528,497 10,379,335 -46.7 2,990 3 1,849 51,003,205 Fox
8 The Grand Budapest Hotel 3,638,041 811,166 348.5 66 2 55,122 4,776,981 Fox Searchlight
9 Frozen 2,147,743 2,954,554 -27.3 1,466 17 1,465 396,386,593 Disney
10 The Monuments Men 2,062,783 3,074,647 -32.9 1,594 6 1,294 73,881,475 Sony
11 Veronica Mars 1,988,351 291 1 6,833 1,988,351 Warner Bros.
12 3 Days to Kill 1,730,343 3,009,910 -42.5 1,566 4 1,105 28,462,711 Relativity
13 Ride Along 1,377,295 2,024,190 -32.0 1,024 9 1,345 132,098,760 Universal
14 12 Years a Slave 1,222,892 2,110,812 -42.1 925 22 1,322 55,090,884 Fox Searchlight
15 RoboCop 854,351 2,018,697 -57.7 965 5 885 56,524,882 Sony
16 About Last Night 670,063 1,653,487 -59.5 624 5 1,074 47,815,963 Sony
17 American Hustle 608,422 1,053,257 -42.2 503 14 1,210 149,351,703 Sony
18 Pompeii 588,026 1,593,629 -63.1 671 4 876 22,416,035 Sony
19 Gravity 547,289 902,190 -39.3 320 24 1,710 272,672,181 Warner Bros.
20 The Nut Job 482,320 325,398 48.2 405 9 1,191 62,090,875 Open Road
Top 5 $ 77,545,949 $ 114,365,842 -32.2
Top 10 98,624,322 127,539,955 -22.7
Top 20 108,693,674 138,465,436 -21.5
Top 20 vs. 2013 108,693,674 102,288,289 6.3

Last Updated: March 16, 2014 at 4:15PM ET

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