Weekend Box Office (April 6 - 8, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND North American moviegoers made The Hunger Games the first film of the year to spend three straight weeks at number one as the runaway blockbuster easily topped the Easter frame and shattered the $300M milestone in the process. 1990s nostalgia led the comedy sequel American Reunion to open in second place and the 3D re-release of Titanic to bow in third. Only one film fell into the normally wide range of $1M to $10M this weekend as a handful of pics accounted for almost all of the business over the holiday session which was about even with last year's bunny session.

Topping the box office for a third consecutive weekend, The Hunger Games pulled in $33.1M in ticket sales, according to final studio figures, and shattered the triple-century mark in the process. Lionsgate enjoyed a respectable 43% decline and watched the cume soar to $302.5M after just 17 days of play. The Katniss hit now ranks number 37 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters (just ahead of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) and has grossed more than every one of the Twilight movies. It even stands a chance of topping every Potter film too as its trajectory puts it on course to finish near the $381M of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 which got a boost from 3D surcharges. With many high schools and colleges having spring breaks this month and a not-so-strong April line-up of new releases, Hunger Games could certainly maintain solid holds in the weeks to come.

American Reunion, the eighth film in the American Pie franchise and fourth to be released theatrically, debuted in second place with decent results grossing $21.5M from 3,192 locations for a $6,740 average. The latest installment in the aging series did not reach the heights of the last sequels that played in theaters - 2003's American Wedding and 2001's American Pie 2 - which bowed to $33.4M and $45.1M. Both were launched in the busier summer season, but also had lower ticket prices. Reunion beat by a small margin the opening weekend gross of the groundbreaking first film in the franchise which debuted to $18.7M in 1999, but sold about 25% fewer tickets.

Produced for $50M, a sizable amount for a comedy with no major bankable stars, American Reunion skewed older with studio research showing that 61% was 25 and older. Appeal was mostly even across genders with males making up 51% of the crowd. Reviews were mostly unflattering while paying audiences were generally satisfied with the entertainment value giving the R-rated pic a B+ grade from CinemaScore. Much has changed in the world of raunchy comedies since the last American Pie film was in theaters with Judd Apatow, Sacha Baron Cohen, and the Hangover films pushing the boundaries to new heights making the humor from Jason Biggs and pals not so bold anymore.

More than 14 years after breaking box office records, James Cameron's Titanic sailed back into theaters with a 3D re-release but found itself in third place, a position the original film did not sink to until its 17th weekend. The Paramount release launched on Wednesday in 2,674 theaters - the exact same number of locations it debuted in on December 19, 1997 - and grossed $17.3M over the Friday-to-Sunday weekend period and $25.6M across the five-day span. Averaging $6,464 per site, the Oscar champ lifted its domestic lifetime total to $626.4M, still number two all-time after the director's Avatar which banked $760.5M including its re-release.

The return of the iceberg romance was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship. Having a chance to make more money may also have been a factor. 3D re-releases of hits from the 1990s have become common lately. Last September, Lion King 3D bowed to $30.2M while in January Disney unleashed Beauty and the Beast 3D to a four-day $22.2M holiday opening. In February, the George Lucas pic Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace got the same treatment and opened to $22.5M.

The first time around, Titanic made its cash from repeat business and unstoppable legs. There is no telling yet how the 3D update will hold up as it may play like similar re-releases with most business upfront from die-hard fans willing to pay again for one more theatrical experience, but no second helpings. Beast and Menace both dropped by more than half on their sophomore frames earlier this year. Titanic 3D did earn a solid A grade from CinemaScore so good word-of-mouth is certainly spreading.

Overseas, Titanic 3D debuted to $35.5M from 53 markets for a worldwide launch of $61M this weekend. It was number one in the U.K., Italy, and Germany with China getting its massive roll-out including 2,400 3D screens started on Tuesday. 20 more countries including Brazil and Mexico open next weekend. With the global launch, the worldwide lifetime gross has now broken the $1.9 billion mark with Cameron likely to have his second $2 billion megahit soon.

Tumbling 56% in its second weekend was the 3D epic sequel Wrath of the Titans which collected $14.7M raising the ten-day cume to $58.6M. That's a whopping 47% behind the $110.2M that its predecessor Clash of the Titans grossed over the same period which also included Easter. Look for Warner Bros. to end its run with about $90M.

Fellow sophomore Mirror Mirror held up much better thanks to the school holiday and a lack of competition for kids dipping 39% to $11.1M. Relativity's fairy tale adventure starring Julia Roberts has banked $36.8M in ten days and could reach nearly $70M making for one of the best performances for the Oscar-winning actress in a major role over the past decade.

Breaking through the $100M mark in its fourth weekend, the hit buddy comedy 21 Jump Street followed with $10M easing just 33% giving Sony $109.4M to date. Universal's The Lorax got a little help from the Easter holiday and dipped 35% to $5M boosting the cume to $198.2M after its sixth round. That puts the 3D Dr. Seuss flick ahead of past spring toons as it is running 37% ahead of 2008's Horton Hears a Who and 51% ahead of last year's 3D entry Rio.

Indie drama Salmon Fishing in the Yemen slipped a mere 22% to $992,428 putting the total for CBS Films at $4.7M. The Bollywood comedy sequel Housefull 2 debuted in ninth with $847,132 from 121 locations for a $7,001 average for Eros. Sci-fi disaster John Carter collapsed by 59% to $830,305 with a disappointing $68M for Disney so far with not much more to come.

The top ten films grossed $115.4M which was up 1% from last Easter which fell in late April when Rio remained in the top spot for a second weekend with $26.3M; but down 31% from 2010's holiday when Clash of the Titans debuted at number one with $61.2M.

Compared to projections, American Reunion came close to my $24M forecast while Titanic 3D fell short of my $33M five-day prediction.

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

Relive the original opening weekend of Titanic by reading the box office report for December 19 - 21, 1997.

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 The Cabin in the Woods, Lockout, and The Three Stooges all open.

# Title Apr 6 - 8 Mar 30 - Apr 1 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Hunger Games $ 33,111,557 $ 58,551,063 -43.4 4,137 3 $ 8,004 $ 302,450,722 Lionsgate
2 American Reunion 21,514,080 3,192 1 6,740 21,514,080 Universal
3 Titanic 3D 17,285,453 2,674 1 6,464 25,645,935 Paramount
4 Wrath of the Titans 14,732,121 33,457,188 -56.0 3,545 2 4,156 58,614,212 Warner Bros.
5 Mirror Mirror 11,095,140 18,132,085 -38.8 3,618 2 3,067 36,773,242 Relativity
6 21 Jump Street 10,001,381 14,830,066 -32.6 3,009 4 3,324 109,413,763 Sony
7 The Lorax 5,030,025 7,784,645 -35.4 3,003 6 1,675 198,204,375 Universal
8 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 992,428 1,272,643 -22.0 524 5 1,894 4,656,429 CBS
9 Housefull 2 847,132 121 1 7,001 847,132 Eros
10 John Carter 830,305 2,029,500 -59.1 1,015 5 818 67,983,652 Disney
11 Safe House 575,990 780,050 -26.2 482 9 1,195 124,746,150 Universal
12 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 539,275 810,388 -33.5 651 9 828 99,387,951 Warner Bros.
13 Act of Valor 531,103 1,001,906 -47.0 708 7 750 68,764,310 Relativity
14 The Raid: Redemption 526,292 270,496 94.6 176 3 2,990 1,249,902 Sony Classics
15 A Thousand Words 478,424 902,587 -47.0 507 5 944 17,422,303 Paramount
16 Jeff Who Lives at Home 418,250 677,952 -38.3 447 4 936 3,400,120 Paramount
17 October Baby 365,385 771,408 -52.6 339 3 1,078 3,780,584 Samuel Goldwyn
18 Project X 326,490 807,236 -59.6 444 6 735 54,061,268 Warner Bros.
19 The Vow 293,199 330,240 -11.2 479 9 612 123,922,180 Sony
20 Casa De Mi Padre 267,432 589,456 -54.6 283 4 945 5,496,417 Lionsgate
Top 5 $ 97,738,351 $ 132,755,047 -26.4
Top 10 115,439,622 138,772,071 -16.8
Top 20 119,761,462 144,190,403 -16.9
Top 20 vs. Easter 2011 119,761,462 131,222,389 -8.7

Last Updated: April 9, 2012 at 5:40PM ET

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