Weekend Box Office (March 30 - April 1, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Despite a big drop, the teen-killing-teen epic The Hunger Games remained the most popular film leading the box office with more ticket sales in its second frame than the two new releases combined. The 3D action sequel Wrath of the Titans debuted in second place while the Snow White pic Mirror Mirror opened in third leading the marketplace to another sizable lead over year-ago levels.

Falling a large but understandable 62% from its record bow, The Hunger Games scored another $58.6M this weekend, according to final studio figures, propelling the ten-day cume to an eye-popping $248.5M. That will allow the Lionsgate release to break Avatar's record for the fastest non-sequel to break the quarter-billion mark when it does so on Monday after 11 days. The Na'vi pic needed 12 days in December 2009 including the Christmas frame whereas Hunger had no holiday help. In fact, only four films in box office history have ever reached the milestone faster - The Dark Knight in eight days, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which both did it in nine days, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in ten days. All four were July releases when weekday numbers were much stronger thanks to students being out of school and the Potter figures included a boost from 3D surcharges.

The fact that Games could collect so much in such a short period of time outside of summer is nothing short of incredible. Overall, it was the eighth best performance for any film in its sophomore weekend and fourth biggest among non-sequels behind Avatar ($75.6M), Spider-Man ($71.4M), and Alice in Wonderland ($62.7M). Among second weekends, Hunger beat out every installment of the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises although the first wizard flick sold more tickets in its Thanksgiving-boosted sophomore round.

Katniss and pals saw a daily breakdown of $18.7M on Friday, $24.7M on Saturday (up 33%), and $15.2M on Sunday (down 39%). The distributor originally projected a 31% Sunday decline but the weekend was off by $2.5M. At its current trajectory, the final domestic tally should reach the vicinity of $375M. Hunger Games just may stay at number one for a third weekend in a row as next weekend it will face the blast-from-the-past debuts of American Reunion in 3,200 locations and the 3D re-release of Titanic which sets sail on Wednesday in 2,500 sites. The Good Friday holiday should keep Games above the $30M mark in its third round putting the $300M barrier within reach by Easter Sunday after 17 days.

Overseas, The Hunger Games saw a 41% decline to an estimated $34.8M lifting the international total to $113.9M and the worldwide cume to $362M. Top market cumes are $17M in Australia, $13.1M in the U.K., and $11.3M from Russia. A final global gross near $600M is possible for the $75M production.

Opening in second place was the big-budget 3D action sequel Wrath of the Titans with $33.5M representing a sharp 45% fall from the $61.2M of its predecessor Clash of the Titans this weekend two years ago. The PG-13 Greek God pic averaged $9,438 from 3,545 theaters and saw an impressive 14% of the gross come from its 292 IMAX screens and 65% from all 3D venues (including IMAX). Clash, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name, was a massive box office hit grossing $163.2M domestically and $493M worldwide. However, its 3D conversion was widely panned as the film was conceptualized to be in 2D and was only converted at the last minute in order to generate higher grosses in the post-Avatar era. Many who came out and were disappointed in Clash skipped out on Wrath this time. Still, not many action films open north of $30M in the March-April corridor and this one is more intended for a global audience. The breakdown saw no surprises as males made up 66% of the crowd while 55% were over 25. Reviews were mostly negative and audiences gave a decent B+ grade from CinemaScore.

Overseas and worldwide, Wrath of the Titans stole the number one spot from Hunger Games. A massive launch across 60 markets resulted in a weekend bow of $76.1M for a worldwide opening weekend of $110M. With Hollywood's action and 3D titles performing extremely well overseas, and Wrath having a non-American setting and international cast, Warner Bros. is hoping to keep the grosses going over the coming weeks. Easter holidays will give students and adults extra time off too so more potential lies ahead. Red hot Russia led the way with $14M with China estimated to follow as second biggest although exact figures were not available because of holidays. Mexico ranked third with a $5M debut and Japan, the only major territory to not open this weekend, launches three weeks from now.

The fairy tale adventure Mirror Mirror starring Julia Roberts landed in third place with $18.1M in its first weekend in theaters. The PG-rated telling of the Snow White story averaged a respectable $5,032 from 3,603 and played to a more female-skewing family audience. Studio data showed that the audience was three-fourths female and 63% 25 and older. Produced for over $80M, the lavish fantasy pic earned mixed reviews from critics and a moderate B+ grade from CinemaScore. With the top two films in the country featuring high death counts, and The Lorax having been out for a month now, families with younger children found Mirror Mirror to be the only major game in town. Boys, not surprisingly, were hard to reach. Though the opening weekend was not exceptionally high, the long-term outlook is encouraging since many schools will be closed over the next two weeks for spring breaks and Easter holidays plus direct competition will be light.

Still pleasing the crowds was the action-comedy 21 Jump Street which slipped only 28% to $14.8M giving Sony $92.9M to date on its way to the century club by the end of the week. Soon to join the double century club, Universal's hit 3D toon The Lorax grossed $7.8M, down 41%, for a $189.3M cume to date. The big-budget actioner John Carter continued its rapid descent falling 60% to $2M for a total of only $66.2M to date. The Disney pic has suffered declines of 55-63% each weekend.

The British fly-fishing drama Salmon Fishing in the Yemen expanded again in its fourth week of play and jumped into the top ten at number seven with $1.3M. Averaging a mild $2,635 from 483 locations, the CBS Films title took advantage of weak grosses from current holdovers to make it so high on the chart. Before Hunger Games arrived last week, no film all year made it into the top ten with less than $2M on the weekend. This weekend there were five films at or below that level. Salmon's sum stands at $3.2M.

The low-budget Navy SEAL flick Act of Valor followed with $1M, off 51%, for $67.7M for Relativity. Eddie Murphy's latest flop A Thousand Words has amazingly spent four straight weeks in the top ten. The Paramount release took in $902,587, down 54%, for a weak cume of only $16.5M. Rounding out the top ten with only $810,388 was the adventure sequel Journey 2: The Mysterious Island which has banked $98.5M so far.

The critically acclaimed documentary Bully got off to a good start in platform release opening to $116,472 from only five theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a solid $23,294 average. Manufacturing a controversy out of its R rating led to plenty of nationwide publicity which helped fuel ticket sales. Harvey and company similarly spun PR gold out of their unsuccessful MPAA appeal for Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004 which smashed box office records for docs. Although all kids can be admitted to an R-rated film as long as they are accompanied by someone 17 or older, the campaign pushed the notion that students were being deprived from getting an important message because of the MPAA. The fight-the-system plan worked wonders connecting to the activism element in the target audience. Bully expands Friday to six more markets including San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston.

The top ten films grossed $138.8M which was up 26% from last year when Hop opened in the top spot with $37.5M; but down 17% from 2010 when Clash of the Titans debuted at number one with $61.2M.

Compared to projections, both Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror opened close to my respective forecasts of $36M and $20M.

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

Watch the NEW trailer for Total Recall. For a review of The Hunger Games visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Titanic and American Reunion debut.

# Title Mar 30 - Apr 1 Mar 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Hunger Games $ 58,551,063 $ 152,535,747 -61.6 4,137 2 $ 14,153 $ 248,483,901 Lionsgate
2 Wrath of the Titans 33,457,188 3,545 1 9,438 33,457,188 Warner Bros.
3 Mirror Mirror 18,132,085 3,603 1 5,032 18,132,085 Relativity
4 21 Jump Street 14,830,066 20,471,187 -27.6 3,148 3 4,711 92,882,690 Sony
5 The Lorax 7,784,645 13,182,045 -40.9 3,264 5 2,385 189,332,445 Universal
6 John Carter 2,029,500 5,073,832 -60.0 2,397 4 847 66,233,839 Disney
7 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 1,272,643 702,602 81.1 483 4 2,635 3,169,623 CBS
8 Act of Valor 1,001,906 2,041,362 -50.9 1,239 6 809 67,745,400 Relativity
9 A Thousand Words 902,587 1,950,154 -53.7 1,007 4 896 16,508,068 Paramount
10 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 810,388 1,357,412 -40.3 908 8 892 98,455,595 Warner Bros.
11 Project X 807,236 1,931,336 -58.2 903 5 894 53,354,012 Warner Bros.
12 Safe House 780,050 1,403,035 -44.4 729 8 1,070 123,881,780 Universal
13 October Baby 771,408 1,697,130 -54.5 387 2 1,993 2,894,717 Samuel Goldwyn
14 Jeff Who Lives at Home 677,952 586,909 15.5 513 3 1,322 2,692,030 Paramount
15 Casa De Mi Padre 589,456 1,181,943 -50.1 439 3 1,343 5,011,055 Lionsgate
16 Friends With Kids 459,074 822,328 -44.2 306 4 1,500 6,324,949 Roadside Attr.
17 This Means War 417,645 985,981 -57.6 575 7 726 53,076,934 Fox
18 The Vow 330,240 841,576 -60.8 514 8 642 123,473,456 Sony
19 Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 305,672 318,834 -4.1 380 7 804 50,753,664 Sony
20 The Artist 279,599 474,532 -41.1 315 19 888 43,546,372 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 132,755,047 $ 193,304,173 -31.3
Top 10 138,772,071 201,643,240 -31.2
Top 20 144,190,403 209,063,830 -31.0
Top 20 vs. 2011 144,190,403 120,505,473 19.7

Last Updated: April 2, 2012 at 5:00PM ET

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