Weekend Box Office (March 25 - 27, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A group of nerdy middle school boys defeated a commando team of machine gun-toting women at the North American box office as the kid comedy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules opened at number one while the effects-heavy action fantasy Sucker Punch debuted in second place. Adult-skewing thrillers Limitless and The Lincoln Lawyer both displayed remarkable staying power in the top five as the lackluster first quarter of 2011 ended.

Improving on its predecessor, the kidpic sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules seized the top spot with an impressive opening of $23.8M, according to final studio figures. Fox enjoyed an impressive $7,500 average from 3,167 locations as the PG-rated comedy beat out the debut of the first Wimpy Kid by 7%. That film bowed to $22.1M on its way to a $64M domestic run.

With a reported cost of only $20M, Rodrick Rules is well on its way to becoming another profitable film adaptation from the popular book series. Audiences are liking what they see as the CinemaScore grade was an encouraging A-. Competition for school children was low so the studio entered the marketplace with very few alternatives stealing away its target crowd. Plus good will from the well-reviewed first Wimpy pic carried over to the sequel which did not fare as well with critics. Given the low cost, continued interest from fans, and existing books to still adapt, the franchise could easily continue.

The stylish action vehicle Sucker Punch, which led the box office on opening day Friday, settled for second place over the weekend with $19.1M. The PG-13 tale about a band of young women that must escape the mental asylum they are locked in averaged $6,284 from 3,033 theaters. Director Zack Snyder, whose effects-heavy action pics 300 and Watchmen both opened at number one with their March debuts, took a beating from critics this time with Punch. The girlpower film was expected to be tops this weekend but with a 17% Saturday slump from the $8.1M opening Friday, it soon became apparent that even reaching $20M in three days would be difficult. Action films led by women have struggled at the box office with the exception of many Angelina Jolie offerings.

Sucker Punch is the latest in a string of stylish action films aimed at teens and young adults that underperformed on opening weekend following I Am Number Four, Red Riding Hood, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Kick-Ass. None broke $20M on opening weekend. With a reported production cost of at least $75M and a troubling B- CinemaScore, Sucker Punch will need strength from overseas and home video to break even. Snyder is still working with Warner Bros. and is directing its Superman reboot film scheduled to hit theaters in December 2012.

With the final March weekend now concluded, Hollywood studios will be eager to put the first quarter behind them. Only four films opened north of $30M during this time period compared to eight last year.

Last weekend's two new adult thrillers enjoyed amazingly low declines and followed in the next two spots. Bradley Cooper's miracle drug flick Limitless slipped only 20% in its sophomore session thanks to terrific word-of-mouth with mature audiences and grossed $15.1M which was about what the industry expected from its opening frame. Relativity Media has taken in a solid $41.1M in ten days and should be headed for $75-85M or even more if these strong legs continue. Lionsgate's legal drama The Lincoln Lawyer dipped by an even smaller amount, 19%, and grossed $10.8M for a $28.7M ten-day cume. The Matthew McConaughey pic may be able to end up in the neighborhood of $60M.

Johnny Depp scored his sixth $100M+ grosser of the past eight years with the animated comedy Rango which dropped 35% to $9.8M. With $106.3M in 24 days, the Paramount release has delivered both the biggest opening and largest overall gross of any 2011 release. The lizard toon could be headed for the vicinity of $130M.

The Universal comedy Paul dropped a moderate 40% to $7.9M and has taken in $25M in ten days. Close behind was another extra terrestrial flick. Dropping 48% to $7.6M was Sony's alien invasion thriller Battle: Los Angeles which upped its cume to $72.6M.

Red Riding Hood ranked eighth with $4.3M, off 40%, for a $32.4M cume in 17 days. Matt Damon's fate-based drama The Adjustment Bureau enjoyed a good hold sliding just 26% to $4.3M for a $54.9M sum to date. The 3D animated flop Mars Needs Moms tumbled 58% to $2.3M thanks to another kidpic in the marketplace and put the total at $19.2M for Disney.

Joining Rango in the century club this weekend was Adam Sandler whose latest comedy Just Go With It fell 33% to $1.5M upping its total to $100.3M. It was the bankable funnyman's 12th starring vehicle to surpass $100M domestically over the last 13 years proving again that audiences still come out for his brand of humor despite what critics have to say.

In platform release, The Weinstein Co. premiered its Palestinian drama Miral in two theaters each in New York and Los Angeles and collected $66,244 for a $16,561 average. The Julian Schnabel-directed pic expands to more cities on Friday. The French film Potiche starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu debuted in eight locations and bowed to $86,017 for a $10,752 average.

Expanding indie titles did well too. The period drama Jane Eyre grossed $969,993 from 90 sites in its third frame for a solid $10,778 average for Focus. Fox Searchlight's Paul Giamatti comedy Win Win averaged a sturdy $20,192 from 23 locations with its $464,420 take in its second session. Totals are $1.9M and $672,336, respectively.

The top ten films grossed $104.7M which was down 7% from last year when How to Train Your Dragon opened in the top spot with $43.7M; and off 23% from 2009 when Monsters vs. Aliens debuted at number one with $59.3M.

Compared to projections, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules powered ahead of my $18M forecast while Sucker Punch debuted well below my $24M prediction.

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

Watch the NEW trailer for Captain America and check the box office chart for the Top March Openings.

For a review of Rango visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Source Code and Hop both debut.

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

# Title Mar 25 - 27 Mar 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules $ 23,751,502 3,167 1 $ 7,500 $ 23,751,502 Fox
2 Sucker Punch 19,058,199 3,033 1 6,284 19,058,199 Warner Bros.
3 Limitless 15,055,249 18,907,302 -20.4 2,805 2 5,367 41,111,231 Relativity
4 The Lincoln Lawyer 10,750,365 13,206,453 -18.6 2,707 2 3,971 28,717,548 Lionsgate
5 Rango 9,772,822 15,076,575 -35.2 3,645 4 2,681 106,335,987 Paramount
6 Paul 7,856,800 13,043,310 -39.8 2,806 2 2,800 24,960,970 Universal
7 Battle: Los Angeles 7,582,566 14,538,429 -47.8 3,118 3 2,432 72,562,110 Sony
8 Red Riding Hood 4,311,312 7,188,131 -40.0 2,715 3 1,588 32,424,769 Warner Bros.
9 The Adjustment Bureau 4,290,795 5,772,510 -25.7 2,282 4 1,880 54,916,865 Universal
10 Mars Needs Moms 2,258,428 5,316,620 -57.5 2,170 3 1,041 19,224,641 Disney
11 Beastly 2,167,645 3,198,478 -32.2 1,585 4 1,368 25,296,218 CBS Films
12 Hall Pass 1,705,370 2,568,334 -33.6 1,204 5 1,416 42,323,480 Warner Bros.
13 The King's Speech 1,557,618 2,034,151 -23.4 1,062 18 1,467 134,851,229 Weinstein Co.
14 Just Go With It 1,510,275 2,245,115 -32.7 1,116 7 1,353 100,251,096 Sony
15 Gnomeo & Juliet 1,510,003 2,298,908 -34.3 1,364 7 1,107 95,872,537 Disney
16 Jane Eyre 969,993 466,409 108.0 90 3 10,778 1,885,526 Focus
17 Unknown 646,340 1,279,351 -49.5 688 6 939 62,239,565 Warner Bros.
18 Tangled 550,994 616,057 -10.6 301 18 1,831 198,526,569 Disney
19 I Am Number Four 498,098 1,015,059 -50.9 512 6 973 53,488,723 Disney
20 Win Win 464,420 150,362 208.9 23 2 20,192 672,336 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 78,388,137 $ 74,772,069 4.8
Top 10 104,688,038 98,816,142 5.9
Top 20 116,268,794 110,471,828 5.2
Top 20 vs. 2010 116,268,794 124,094,678 -6.3

Last Updated: March 28, 2011 at 5:45PM ET

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