Weekend Box Office (March 19 - 21, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The Red Queen ruled once again as Disney's Alice in Wonderland remained at number one for the third consecutive frame beating out another pack of new releases. Fox's tween comedy Diary of a Wimpy Kid beat expectations to open in second place while Sony's Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler vehicle The Bounty Hunter enjoyed a solid debut of its own close behind in third. But Universal's new action entry Repo Men flopped in fourth with a miserable showing. The overall box office was up over 2009 for the fourth straight weekend.

Audiences lined up again for some 3D fun with Johnny Depp with Alice in Wonderland easily defending its crown with $34.2M in its third round according to final studio figures, off just 46%, boosting the 17-day cume to a stellar $265.4M. It was Disney's first three-peat at number one since Depp's megahit Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest from July 2006. Staying atop the box office chart for this long is rare these days. Outside of Avatar, the last film to spend three weekends in first place was Tropic Thunder from the summer of 2008.

Alice smashed the $250M mark on Saturday after only 16 days and looks headed for the $350M mark. The Tim Burton pic is already the second highest-grossing film to ever open in the January-to-April corridor trailing just The Passion of the Christ which hauled in $370.3M in 2004 after a late February debut. This weekend, Alice also joined the list of the Top 50 all-time domestic blockbusters sitting at number 45 between Shrek ($267.7M) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($262M).

Fox posted brawny numbers for its kidpic Diary of a Wimpy Kid which debuted in second place with $22.1M from 3,077 playdates for a strong $7,191 average. Based on the popular middle school-set book, the PG-rated film had no stars but instead capitalized on a built-in audience of fans attracting an impressive amount of business considering how Alice in Wonderland is still playing well to kids of all ages. With a budget of under $20M, the studio should not only see a healthy profit from box office and DVD sales but will also have a new franchise since there are still three more books in the series that can keep the cash coming in. Studio research indicated that 59% of the audience was under 25 and 51% was female. Fox is expecting upcoming spring and Easter school closings to keep the film going.

Opening close behind in third place was the battle-of-the-exes film The Bounty Hunter which seized $20.7M from 3,074 theaters for a solid $6,729 average. The PG-13 pic starring Gerard Butler as a bounty hunter assigned to capture his bail-jumping ex-wife played by Jennifer Aniston catered to an audience of adult women. Studio research showed that 58% of the crowd was female with the 50/50 age split at 30 instead of 25. The opening was almost identical to the $21.6M debut of 2008's Fool's Gold starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. Both were battle-of-the-sexes action-comedies directed by Andy Tennant with poor reviews that were sold on the starpower of the beautiful people on screen. Gold, which enjoyed a holiday on its second weekend, ended with $70.2M and Bounty could approach the same vicinity which would be an encouraging performance given the budget that was in the low $40M range. Overseas potential looks solid as Aniston has been a bankable draw and Butler has seen his star wattage rise in the last year.

The new sci-fi actioner Repo Men failed to capture any meaningful business in its first weekend with a poor opening of $6.1M. The ultraviolent R-rated pic starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker averaged a wimpy $2,430 for Universal from 2,521 theaters. Critics panned the futuristic film.

Universal found more bad news in fifth place as its other March action title Green Zone tumbled 57% to $6.1M for a weak ten-day total of only $24.9M. The studio did what it could to hide the film's Iraq setting and pushed it instead as a film from the Jason Bourne guys but audiences didn't buy into it. With a production cost of more than $100M, Zone will end up with a domestic take of just $35-40M. The early overseas tally is $20.4M with many markets still to open, but recovering production and marketing costs internationally will also be a challenging task.

Paramount claimed the next two spots with the comedy She's Out of My League which grossed $5.8M and the thriller Shutter Island which took in $4.7M. The R-rated laugher declined by only 41% in its second round and upped its ten-day sum to $19.7M with a $35M final likely - not bad for a low-profile and inexpensive pic that is sure to do even better on DVD. The Scorsese-DiCaprio flick dropped 42% and has banked $115.8M to date.

Avatar spent its 14th weekend in the top ten with $4M, off 38%, and a $736.9M cume. Fox's overseas total climbed to $1.937 billion making the global haul $2.674 billion. Fox Searchlight's Our Family Wedding fell 51% to $3.7M for $13.6M in ten days. Fellow sophomore Remember Me crumbled 60% to $3.3M giving Summit only $13.9M to date. Final grosses will be near the $20M mark for each.

In limited release, Focus scored the best average with its Ben Stiller pic Greenberg which bowed to $118,152 from only three sites for a muscular $39,384 average. Anchor Bay averaged a sturdy $16,001 from each of two locations for its Andy Garcia film City Island. The 45-minute IMAX science film Hubble 3D debuted to $410,920 from 39 large-screen venues for a $10,536 average. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opened to $335,502 from 34 for a $9,868 average for Music Box. And Apparition earned a weak $3,300 average for its rocker girl pic The Runaways which debuted to $805,115 from 244 houses.

The top ten films grossed $110.8M which was up 19% from last year when Knowing opened in the top spot with $24.6M; and up 17% from 2008 when Horton Hears a Who remained at number one with $24.6M.

Compared to projections, Diary of a Wimpy Kid opened ahead of my $16M forecast, The Bounty Hunter was on target with my $22M prediction, and Repo Men failed to reach my $10M projection.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter. For a review of She's Out of My League visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when How To Train Your Dragon and Hot Tub Time Machine both open.

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

# Title Mar 19 - 21 Mar 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Alice in Wonderland $ 34,189,969 $ 62,714,076 -45.5 3,739 3 $ 9,144 $ 265,433,637 Buena Vista
2 Diary of a Wimpy Kid 22,126,166 3,077 1 7,191 22,126,166 Fox
3 The Bounty Hunter 20,686,423 3,074 1 6,729 20,686,423 Sony
4 Repo Men 6,126,170 2,521 1 2,430 6,126,170 Universal
5 Green Zone 6,113,105 14,309,295 -57.3 3,004 2 2,035 24,852,135 Universal
6 She's Out of My League 5,802,363 9,775,278 -40.6 2,958 2 1,962 19,741,174 Paramount
7 Shutter Island 4,735,834 8,144,133 -41.8 2,704 5 1,751 115,750,466 Paramount
8 Avatar 4,027,005 6,526,421 -38.3 1,236 14 3,258 736,907,957 Fox
9 Our Family Wedding 3,739,600 7,629,862 -51.0 1,609 2 2,324 13,608,107 Fox Searchlight
10 Remember Me 3,252,494 8,089,139 -59.8 2,215 2 1,468 13,918,922 Summit
11 The Ghost Writer 2,063,595 1,225,084 68.4 819 5 2,520 6,753,764 Summit
12 Brooklyn's Finest 1,640,703 4,471,932 -63.3 1,311 3 1,251 24,821,335 Overture
13 The Crazies 1,488,933 3,680,940 -59.6 1,495 4 996 36,396,873 Overture
14 Cop Out 1,417,365 4,268,068 -66.8 1,563 4 907 42,571,478 Warner Bros.
15 Crazy Heart 1,395,387 3,005,547 -53.6 1,154 14 1,209 36,430,281 Fox Searchlight
16 Percy Jackson & The Olympians 1,368,470 3,077,631 -55.5 1,348 6 1,015 85,038,766 Fox
17 The Blind Side 877,736 1,604,096 -45.3 602 17 1,458 254,273,981 Warner Bros.
18 The Runaways 805,115 244 1 3,300 805,115 Apparition
19 The Hurt Locker (RE) 412,000 828,000 -50.2 320 3 1,288 16,400,000 Summit
20 Hubble 3D IMAX 410,920 39 1 10,536 410,920 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 89,241,833 $ 103,031,921 -13.4
Top 10 110,799,129 129,609,144 -14.5
Top 20 122,679,353 143,409,749 -14.5
Top 20 vs. 2009 122,679,353 101,099,313 21.3

Last Updated: March 22, 2010 at 4:25PM ET