Weekend Box Office (March 26 - 28, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND One 3D film replaced another at the top of the North American box office as the animated adventure How To Train Your Dragon flew into the number one spot ending the three-week reign of Alice in Wonderland which still managed to be strong enough to finish in second place. Produced by DreamWorks Animation, Dragon bowed to $43.7M from 4,055 theaters for a sizzling $10,785 average per location, according to final studio figures.

The Paramount release scored the eighth biggest opening ever in the month of March, aided in part by higher 3D ticket prices, and came in very close to the $45M debut of 2008's Horton Hears a Who which was another high-profile toon released a week before the Easter holiday in March. That film had much more starpower with the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell and was based on a story from Dr. Seuss, a bigger brand name in the kids world. Dragon enjoyed higher ticket prices, but its source material is less known and there are no A-list comedians doing voices. Instead, the Viking pic has Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, and Craig Ferguson.

The road ahead seems promising for Dragon. Reviews were among the best of any film this year and the CinemaScore grade from opening day moviegoers was an encouraging A. On top of that, next weekend is Easter so many schools across the country will be closed either this week or next so the first 17 days should bring a robust gross for the $165M-budgeted DreamWorks pic. The final domestic gross could match the budget and overseas potential is solid. Studio research showed broad appeal with 51% of the crowd being over 25 and 55% being female.

With the overwhelming success of 3D films, it was no easy task to secure the necessary screens for Dragon but Paramount did lock in 2,178 locations that offered the extra dimension including 185 IMAX 3D venues which charge even more for tickets ($19.50 in New York City). Alice in Wonderland has been on fire at the 3D box office and exhibitors still wanted to keep that offering and even Avatar in its 15th weekend drew business. These megahits are now the two highest-grossing 3D films ever. But Dragon found the space and grossed as much as the next three films on the chart combined. The box office has now been led by a 3D film over 11 of the past 15 weekends and is likely to extend that streak next weekend with the launch of Clash of the Titans which will begin its 3D run this Thursday night at 8pm ahead of Good Friday.

More PG-rated 3D fun was had in second place with Alice in Wonderland which dropped a spot after three weeks at number one. The Johnny Depp blockbuster grossed $17.7M and suffered a sizable 48% drop thanks to the new competition from Dragon for 3D screens and audience attention. Alice's total take climbed to a stellar $293.5M in 24 days as the film jumped up to number 35 on the list of top all-time domestic blockbusters sitting between a pair of Disney hits, 1999's The Sixth Sense ($293.5M) and last summer's Pixar smash Up ($293M). By Saturday, Wonderland will shatter the $300M mark.

Adult men looking for some raunchy humor powered the new comedy Hot Tub Time Machine into third place with an opening weekend take of $14M. The MGM release about four grown men who time-travel back to 1986 averaged a decent $5,091 per location from 2,754 theaters - not bad, but not too impressive either. Studio research showed that 58% of the audience was male and 58% was over 25. The CinemaScore grade was only a B so word-of-mouth going forward will not be too strong.

The more female-skewing adult audience got its laughs from The Bounty Hunter which held up very well dipping only 42% to $12M in its second round. The Sony release has captured $38.4M in ten days and should finish with a solid $65-70M.

Following a powerful debut, Fox's kidpic Diary of a Wimpy Kid took a tumble in its sophomore frame falling 54% to $10.1M pushing the ten-day cume to $35.9M. It was the largest drop in the top ten and competition from Dragon and a still-strong Alice factored into the decline. Wimpy looks to reach roughly $55M by the end of its run.

The rest of the top ten was filled with holdovers taking small $2-4M slices of the pie. Paramount's comedy She's Out of My League dropped only 40% to $3.5M for a $25.6M sum. The Matt Damon war thriller Green Zone grossed $3.4M, down 45%, to a $30.5M total for Universal. Faring much better this spring was Shutter Island which followed in eighth dipping only 33% to $3.2M. Paramount has banked $120.6M to date.

The sci-fi flop Repo Men tumbled 51% in its second frame to $3M and a dismal $11.3M over ten days for Universal. Fox Searchlight's comedy Our Family Wedding rounded out the top ten with $2.4M, down 37%, for a cume of $16.9M.

Following its historic fourteen-week run in the top ten, Avatar dropped to eleventh place with $2M. With 3D screens being snatched up by competitors, the Pandora flick fell by a sharp 49% boosting the record domestic tally to $740.4M. Fox should end this run with $745-750M although more could be added later in the year since a re-release is being discussed for late summer or fall.

The top ten films grossed $113M which was down 17% from last year when Monsters vs. Aliens opened in the top spot with $59.3M; but up 32% from 2008 when 21 debuted at number one with $24.1M.

Compared to projections, How To Train Your Dragon opened ahead of my $37M forecast while Hot Tub Time Machine came in below my $19M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter. For a NEW review of Hot Tub Time Machine visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Clash of the Titans, Why Did I Get Married Too?, and The Last Song all open over Easter weekend.

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

# Title Mar 26 - 28 Mar 19 - 21 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 How To Train Your Dragon $ 43,732,319 4,055 1 $ 10,785 $ 43,732,319 Paramount
2 Alice in Wonderland 17,707,858 34,189,969 -48.2 3,384 4 5,233 293,534,935 Buena Vista
3 Hot Tub Time Machine 14,020,502 2,754 1 5,091 14,020,502 MGM
4 The Bounty Hunter 12,006,731 20,686,423 -42.0 3,074 2 3,906 38,418,433 Sony
5 Diary of a Wimpy Kid 10,121,961 22,126,166 -54.3 3,083 2 3,283 35,898,390 Fox
6 She's Out of My League 3,512,218 5,802,363 -39.5 2,432 3 1,444 25,586,560 Paramount
7 Green Zone 3,384,480 6,113,105 -44.6 2,564 3 1,320 30,475,005 Universal
8 Shutter Island 3,187,487 4,735,834 -32.7 2,123 6 1,501 120,612,552 Paramount
9 Repo Men 3,010,515 6,126,170 -50.9 2,519 2 1,195 11,304,730 Universal
10 Our Family Wedding 2,352,539 3,739,600 -37.1 1,132 3 2,078 16,938,462 Fox Searchlight
11 Avatar 2,047,475 4,027,005 -49.2 930 15 2,202 740,440,529 Fox
12 Remember Me 1,935,640 3,252,494 -40.5 1,935 3 1,000 17,036,782 Summit
13 The Ghost Writer 1,696,784 2,063,595 -17.8 819 6 2,072 9,239,079 Summit
14 Greenberg 1,021,151 118,152 764.3 181 2 5,642 1,200,139 Focus
15 Chloe 900,688 350 1 2,573 900,688 Sony Classics
16 Crazy Heart 791,256 1,395,387 -43.3 849 15 932 37,746,228 Fox Searchlight
17 Brooklyn's Finest 766,098 1,640,703 -53.3 739 4 1,037 26,228,372 Overture
18 The Crazies 724,623 1,488,933 -51.3 851 5 851 37,673,626 Overture
19 Percy Jackson & The Olympians 672,691 1,368,470 -50.8 790 7 852 86,106,485 Fox
20 Cop Out 501,662 1,417,365 -64.6 655 5 766 43,568,744 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 97,589,371 $ 89,241,833 9.4
Top 10 113,036,610 110,799,129 2.0
Top 20 124,094,678 122,679,353 1.2
Top 20 vs. 2009 124,094,678 143,137,503 -13.3

Last Updated: March 29, 2010 at 5:40PM ET