Weekend Box Office (April 8 - 10, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Universal's hit kidpic Hop became the first film of 2011 to spend back-to-back weeks at number one as the bunny pic fended off competition from four new wide releases to remain the most popular film in North America. Its star Russell Brand almost claimed second place with his comedy remake Arthur, but instead settled for third in a tight race. The frame's other debuting titles had mixed results with the teen girl-led films Hanna and Soul Surfer faring well while the raunchy fantasy comedy Your Highness failed to make much of a splash. As usual, the overall box office was down by double digits compared to last year.

Dropping a reasonable 43% in its second turn with moviegoers, Hop grossed $21.3M boosting its ten-day total to a healthy $67.8M. The Universal release cost only $63M to make so the studio has a solid moneymaker on its hands that could possibly find its way to $120-130M from North America alone. So far the animation/live-action hybrid is following the same path as Johnny Depp's Rango from early March. After a similar $38.1M debut, the lizard toon declined by 41% putting its ten-day tally at $68.2M. Rango now sits at $117.5M after its sixth session on its way to $120M+. Hop follows an eleven-week streak of new films opening at number one each frame.

Focus landed in second with a commendable performance from its new action title Hanna which debuted to $12.4M from 2,535 playdates. The PG-13 espionage thriller averaged $4,880 and was the only action film in the top five. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett, the pic earned strong reviews from critics which helped it appeal to upscale adult audiences looking for something without talking bunnies or bumbling drunks. Few films are anchored by a teen girl assassin so the fresh feel and the strong marketing push helped Hanna stand out as an option paying top dollar for.

Russell Brand's Arthur remake finished in third place for the weekend and grossed $12.2M. The PG-13 redo of the 1981 Dudley Moore hit averaged a lackluster $3,731 per theater from 3,276 locations. Slammed by critics, the Warner Bros. release was meant to bring the story of a rich lovable drunk playboy to a younger audience by using the British comic as the anchor. But unfunny trailers and Brand's not-so-sizable box office power led Arthur to a disappointing debut as moviegoers stayed away for the most part. The actor's only other lead role in a film came in last summer's Get Him To The Greek which carried an R rating and bowed to a better $17.6M on its way to $61M. Arthur co-starred Helen Mirren and Jennifer Garner who also failed to contribute commercial muscle. Though it ranked second overall, the comedy placed fifth in the top ten when comparing per-theater averages. The reported production budget was $40M with a hefty marketing tab added on top of that.

The inspirational family drama Soul Surfer exceeded expectations and debuted in fourth with $10.6M. The PG-rated true story of a teen surfer who gets her life back on track after a shark bites off her arm averaged a good $4,789 from 2,214 sites. Sony's TriStar unit handled distribution while FilmDistrict took marketing duties. Starring AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, and superstar singer Carrie Underwood in her film debut, Soul earned mixed reviews from critics. Moms and daughters made up a big portion of the audience. Exit polls showed that a whopping 80% of the crowd was female and 56% was under 25. Soul Surfer earned an A+ grade from CinemaScore which is rare these days so word-of-mouth should allow the pic to play well for the rest of the spring season especially with the Easter holiday still to come.

The horror film Insidious posted a shockingly low second weekend decline of only 29% and ranked fifth with $9.4M in ticket sales. Fright films routinely lose over half of their opening weekend take in the sophomore frame so this result is indeed rare. With a solid $26.7M in its first ten days, rookie distributor FilmDistrict's first release could find its way to an impressive $50M or more. With Insidious, four of the top five films had one-word titles.

Faring worst among the weekend's four new wide releases was Universal's fantasy comedy Your Highness which bowed to $9.4M from 2,769 locations for a dull $3,380 average. The R-rated action laugher starring Danny McBride, James Franco, and Natalie Portman tried to attract older teens and young adults by mixing an effects-driven Medieval quest with crude sexual humor but failed to impress. The $50M production skewed towards young men with 58% of the audience being male and 55% being 25 and older. A weak C+ CinemaScore and horrible reviews indicate a fast fade in the weeks ahead. Saturday sales dropped 9% while all other new releases - even rival comedy Arthur - enjoyed increases.

The sci-fi thriller Source Code dropped 42% in its second weekend to $8.7M. Holding up well despite plenty of competition, the Summit release has grossed $28.2M in ten days and looks headed for a $50M finish. Relativity's action pic Limitless fell by a similar 41% to $5.5M boosting the impressive cume to $64.1M.

The kidpic Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules tumbled 53% to $4.8M giving Fox $45.3M to date. Lionsgate's The Lincoln Lawyer enjoyed another moderate drop with $4.3M, off only 37%, for a $46.1M sum rounding out the top ten.

New films in limited release did not fare very well over the weekend. The IMAX 3D animal documentary Born To Be Wild debuted in 206 locations and took in $856,133 for a mild $4,156 average per site. The G-rated pic about orangutans and elephants was narrated by Morgan Freeman. Running only 40 minutes in length, Born played to regular ticket prices despite being an IMAX 3D presentation. Many exhibitors were able to squeeze in seven or eight showtimes per day meaning each showing attracted just 20-25 people. Reviews were terrific across the board. Lionsgate released the Spanish-language romantic comedy No Eres Tu, Soy Yo (It's Not You, It's Me) in 226 theaters but averaged a weak $2,606 with its $588,938 take.

The top ten films grossed $98.4M which was down 16% from last year when Clash of the Titans remained in the top spot with $26.6M; and off 19% from 2009 when Hannah Montana The Movie debuted at number one with $32.3M.

Compared to projections, Arthur was on target with my $13M forecast while Hanna opened ahead of my $10M prediction. Soul Surfer debuted well north of my $7M projection and Your Highness came in close to my $11M forecast.

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

For a NEW review of Your Highness visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Rio and Scream 4 both open.

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

# Title Apr 8 - 10 Apr 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hop $ 21,298,240 $ 37,543,710 -43.3 3,616 2 $ 5,890 $ 67,754,545 Universal
2 Hanna 12,370,549 2,535 1 4,880 12,370,549 Focus
3 Arthur 12,222,756 3,276 1 3,731 12,222,756 Warner Bros.
4 Soul Surfer 10,601,862 2,214 1 4,789 10,601,862 Sony
5 Insidious 9,371,769 13,271,464 -29.4 2,419 2 3,874 26,728,357 FilmDistrict
6 Your Highness 9,360,020 2,769 1 3,380 9,360,020 Universal
7 Source Code 8,650,238 14,812,094 -41.6 2,971 2 2,912 28,218,871 Summit
8 Limitless 5,461,378 9,307,896 -41.3 2,655 4 2,057 64,149,608 Relativity
9 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules 4,770,987 10,040,822 -52.5 2,881 3 1,656 45,348,247 Fox
10 The Lincoln Lawyer 4,281,598 6,829,050 -37.3 2,420 4 1,769 46,136,408 Lionsgate
11 Rango 2,301,507 4,505,572 -48.9 2,007 6 1,147 117,532,400 Paramount
12 Sucker Punch 2,102,082 6,020,403 -65.1 1,755 3 1,198 33,973,736 Warner Bros.
13 Red Riding Hood 1,776,234 4,311,312 -58.8 1,788 4 993 35,592,341 Warner Bros.
14 Paul 1,742,340 4,245,560 -59.0 1,667 4 1,045 35,078,290 Universal
15 Battle: Los Angeles 1,528,411 3,536,435 -56.8 1,408 5 1,086 81,228,788 Sony
16 Jane Eyre 1,157,935 1,215,132 -4.7 247 4 4,688 5,146,695 Focus
17 Win Win 1,150,180 1,138,864 1.0 226 3 5,089 3,434,825 Fox Searchlight
18 The Adjustment Bureau 876,960 2,142,630 -59.1 783 5 1,120 60,108,660 Universal
19 Born To Be Wild 856,133 206 1 4,156 856,133 Warner Bros.
20 No Eres Tu, Soy Yo 588,938 226 1 2,606 588,938 Lionsgate
Top 5 $ 65,865,176 $ 84,975,986 -22.5
Top 10 98,389,397 110,113,006 -10.6
Top 20 112,470,117 120,505,473 -6.7
Top 20 vs. 2010 112,470,117 123,501,280 -8.9

Last Updated: April 11, 2011 at 8:30PM ET

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