Weekend Box Office (April 1 - 3, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND New releases all fared well as the April box office kicked off with the Easter-themed hit Hop which powered its way to number one playing well to family audiences. Older adults drove the action thriller Source Code to a second place debut while fright fans lined up for the new horror pic Insidious which finished in third. But overall ticket sales continued to struggle as all films in the marketplace this weekend combined made about as much as just the top three pictures from a year ago.

Universal delivered the biggest opening ever for a kidpic in April with its Easter Bunny flick Hop which bowed to $37.5M, according to final studio figures. The PG-rated hybrid of animation and live-action averaged a potent $10,490 from a very wide launch in 3,579 theaters and connected with its target audience of children and their parents with a debut that exceeded pre-release expectations. Universal and its promotional partners attacked the marketplace from all angles with marketing tie-ins designed to engage consumers - and especially those all-important decision-making moms - in numerous ways. The three-day tally almost beat the $38.1M bow of Rango which still holds the record for 2011's largest opening weekend.

With no huge stars appearing on screen or providing voices, the $63M-budgeted Hop was promoted as being from the producer of Despicable Me and the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Those overachievers grossed a combined $469M from North America alone and were crowd-pleasers with kids so families felt safe coming out for this new offering. A familiar Easter Bunny storyline and colorful trailers helped too as did a release date a few weeks before the family-friendly holiday. With a CinemaScore grade of A- and no new kidpics slated for next weekend, the road ahead looks promising although the 3D toon Rio will cause a major distraction on April 15. Overall, Hop enjoyed the fifth-biggest opening ever for April which generally is a slow month at multiplexes.

The well-reviewed sci-fi film Source Code opened in second place with $14.8M from 2,961 theaters for a good $5,002 average. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier that takes multiple trips back in time in hopes of preventing a train disaster, the PG-13 film attracted some of the best reviews of the year for an action film and debuted just a few notches behind recent adult-skewing thrillers like Limitless ($18.9M), The Adjustment Bureau ($21.2M), and Unknown ($21.9M). But its B CinemaScore suggests that the coming weeks may not be smooth sailing. Produced for $32M, Source Code played to older men with studio research showing that 54% of the audience was male and 64% was over 30.

New distributor FilmDistrict got off to an encouraging start with its first release, the horror picture Insidious, which bowed to $13.3M in third place. The PG-13 chiller averaged a good $5,511 from 2,408 locations and took advantage of a severe lack of competition as 2011 has barely seen any scary movies be released. Marketed as being from the makers of Paranormal Activity and Saw helped it to reach its target audience and the rating certainly broadened the appeal to younger teens looking for a non-gory scare. Reviews were quite good for this genre and Saturday sales enjoyed a 12% bump - something not often seen with horror titles. Insidious debuted ahead of expectations establishing FilmDistrict as a distributor to watch for.

Tumbling 58% from its top spot debut was the kidpic sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules which took in $10M in its second weekend for fourth place. The Fox release, which cost just $20M to produce, has grossed a solid $38.2M in ten days and is headed for the vicinity of $55M, or just slightly below the $64M of its predecessor from last spring.

The Bradley Cooper-Robert De Niro hit Limitless followed with $9.3M, off only 38%, for a $55.5M total in 17 days for Relativity. Lionsgate's Matthew McConaughey legal drama The Lincoln Lawyer also held up well in its third round slipping only 37% to $6.8M for a $39.4M cume to date. Both films are benefiting from strong word-of-mouth.

On the other hand, audiences abandoned the stylish action fantasy Sucker Punch which collapsed in its sophomore outing falling a steep 68% to $6M. The pricey $75M production has banked just $29.8M in ten days and is not likely to collect much more with a $35-40M final likely for Warner Bros. Rango, the year's top-grossing title, dropped 54% and took in $4.5M pushing Paramount's sum to $113.7M.

Alien flicks Paul and Battle: Los Angeles were once again neighbors on the box office chart and this time rounded out the top ten. Universal's comedy collected $4.2M, down 46%, and has taken in $31.8M to date. Sony's action pic fell harder with a 53% decline to $3.5M. The invasion film's domestic total stands at $78.5M while the overseas tally crossed the century mark this weekend with $100.7M putting the global cume at $179.2M.

In limited release, Sony Classics platformed this year's Oscar and Golden Globe winner for best foreign language film In A Better World in four sites in New York and Los Angeles and grossed $33,058. The Danish film averaged a respectable $8,265 per theater and earned mostly good reviews from U.S. film critics. The bullying drama played numerous film festivals like Toronto and Sundance and was released in Scandinavia last fall.

The top ten films grossed $110.1M which was down a sizable 34% from last year when Clash of the Titans opened in the top spot with $61.2M; and off 25% from 2009 when Fast & Furious debuted at number one with $71M. The two films still stand as April's biggest opening weekends by a wide margin.

Compared to projections, Hop bolted ahead of my $24M forecast while Source Code was very close to my $16M prediction. Insidious opened a few notches above my $10M projection.

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

Check the NEW box office chart for the Top April Openings and watch the NEW trailer for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

For a NEW review of the Tangled DVD visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Your Highness, Arthur, Hanna, and Soul Surfer all open.

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

# Title Apr 1 - 3 Mar 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hop $ 37,543,710 3,579 1 $ 10,490 $ 37,543,710 Universal
2 Source Code 14,812,094 2,961 1 5,002 14,812,094 Summit
3 Insidious 13,271,464 2,408 1 5,511 13,271,464 FilmDistrict
4 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules 10,040,822 23,751,502 -57.7 3,169 2 3,168 38,196,168 Fox
5 Limitless 9,307,896 15,055,249 -38.2 2,838 3 3,280 55,509,640 Relativity
6 The Lincoln Lawyer 6,829,050 10,750,365 -36.5 2,707 3 2,523 39,416,066 Lionsgate
7 Sucker Punch 6,020,403 19,058,199 -68.4 3,033 2 1,985 29,811,118 Warner Bros.
8 Rango 4,505,572 9,772,822 -53.9 3,134 5 1,438 113,728,874 Paramount
9 Paul 4,245,560 7,856,800 -46.0 2,550 3 1,665 31,844,445 Universal
10 Battle: Los Angeles 3,536,435 7,582,566 -53.4 2,263 4 1,563 78,502,566 Sony
11 The Adjustment Bureau 2,142,630 4,290,795 -50.1 1,525 5 1,405 58,530,595 Universal
12 Red Riding Hood 1,776,234 4,311,312 -58.8 1,788 4 993 35,592,341 Warner Bros.
13 Jane Eyre 1,215,132 969,993 25.3 180 4 6,751 3,479,513 Focus
14 Win Win 1,138,864 464,420 145.2 149 3 7,643 1,947,944 Fox Searchlight
15 The King's Speech 1,133,162 1,557,618 -27.3 1,007 19 1,125 136,586,305 Weinstein Co.
16 Beastly 821,881 2,167,645 -62.1 821 5 1,001 26,786,409 CBS Films
17 Hall Pass 755,155 1,705,370 -55.7 703 6 1,074 43,754,971 Warner Bros.
18 Just Go With It 632,813 1,510,275 -58.1 597 8 1,060 101,425,320 Sony
19 Gnomeo & Juliet 429,732 1,510,003 -71.5 735 8 585 96,866,076 Disney
20 Mars Needs Moms 346,864 2,258,428 -84.6 701 4 495 20,370,610 Disney
Top 5 $ 84,975,986 $ 78,388,137 8.4
Top 10 110,113,006 104,688,038 5.2
Top 20 120,505,473 116,268,794 3.6
Top 20 vs. 2010 120,505,473 173,592,381 -30.6

Last Updated: April 4, 2011 at 8:35PM ET

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