Weekend Box Office (April 13 - 15, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Audiences made The Hunger Games the first film since Avatar to hold the number one spot for four consecutive frames as the runaway smash hit fended off competition from a trio of new releases. The Lionsgate pic held up incredibly well dropping only 36% to $21.1M, according to final studio figures, which was enough to lead the box office field. The decline was its smallest yet and especially impressive since it was coming off of the Easter holiday session. Hunger Games has now amassed a stunning $336.7M in only 24 days of release shooting it up to number 22 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of the $336.5M of 2007's Spider Man 3. The Katniss sensation is now on course to outgross every Harry Potter and Twilight film in North America, even the final Hogwarts pic which was helped by 3D surcharges.

Overseas, the blockbuster continued to fade away dropping around 40% to an estimated $15M from 60 territories upping the overseas total to $194M and the worldwide haul to $531M. At its current pace, Hunger Games may reach $390M or more from North America and over $650M worldwide, not bad for a film that cost $75M to produce. All eyes now shift to Zac Efron who aims to topple the four-time champ next weekend with his romance The Lucky One which has been gaining traction.

Low-brow humor found its way into second place as the PG-rated comedy The Three Stooges scored the best debut among new releases with $17M. The Fox release averaged a decent $4,892 from 3,477 locations and appealed to younger kids who like to see slapstick comedy and the dads that loved the bumbling trio from ages ago. A lack of options for young boys during a time when many schools are on break also helped. Directed by the Farrelly brothers, Stooges played 58% male and 52% under 25, according to studio research. The CinemaScore was only a B- and reviews were generally negative but not as atrocious as they were expected to be.

Earning amazing reviews for a horror film, The Cabin in the Woods bowed in third place with $14.7M from 2,811 theaters for a respectable $5,245 average. The R-rated chiller about a group of college students terrorized while vacationing at a remote cabin scored early buzz thanks to its well-received premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Glowing reviews only added to the heat and a launch on Friday the 13th certainly didn't hurt. Though a good debut, Woods did not generate a huge bow even though there have been almost no major fright films since early January. Lionsgate is hoping that positive buzz will keep the target audience interested.

While it didn't have the legs of its original release in 1997, the 3D update on Titanic did enjoy the best hold of any film in the top ten dipping only 31% to $11.9M putting it in fourth place. After 12 days, the Paramount title has collected $44.7M lifting the lifetime domestic tally to $645.5M. Back when it was first released, Titanic actually surged 24% in its second weekend going from $28.6M to $35.5M.

But the real fireworks for the iceberg romance this weekend came from overseas markets where Titanic claimed the number one spot with a scorching $88.2M from 69 markets boosting the international gross for the 3D version to $146.4M including an eye-popping $58M launch in China fueled by 3,500 screens including 66 IMAX venues. In fact, Titanic 3D could very well be the first Hollywood movie to open bigger in China than in the U.S. and the gap between the two powerful markets is vast. This weekend, which marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the actual ship, the James Cameron hit ranked either first or second in 24 international territories allowing Titanic to smash the $2 billion global lifetime gross mark. A whopping 77% of the $191M tallied worldwide by the 3D upgrade has come from outside of North America where Fox, as with the original release, distributes.

Following in fifth was the comedy fourquel American Reunion which dropped 51% in its sophomore frame to $10.5M putting the ten-day total at $39.7M. Compared to the last theatrical sequels in the franchise, the $50M production is running 39% behind 2003's American Wedding and 55% behind 2001's American Pie 2. The 3D adventure Wrath of the Titans fell 53% to $6.9M giving Warner Bros. $71.3M to date from North America. A $16M international weekend put the overseas take at $188M raising the global gross to $259.3M.

The Snow White pic Mirror Mirror fared well in its third round with $6.8M, off 38%, for a $49.3M cume for Relativity. Close behind was 21 Jump Street which collected $6.6M, down 34%, and a $120.3M domestic tally.

Opening poorly in ninth was the sci-fi actioner Lockout which took in just $6.2M in its first attack. Averaging a weak $2,700 from 2,308 locations, the FilmDistrict pic was distributed by Open Road and failed to generate much excitement. Reviews were not very encouraging. Universal's hit toon The Lorax rounded out the top ten with $3.1M, off 39%, boosting the cume to $204.5M making the Dr. Seuss film the highest-grossing animated film since the studio's own Despicable Me which grossed $251.5M in the summer of 2010. Worldwide, Lorax has banked $278.8M so far.

A handful of indie titles found themselves just outside of the top ten. The Indonesian cop thriller The Raid: Redemption expanded nationally from 176 to 881 theaters and rose to number eleven with just under $1M with $2.5M overall to date for Sony Classics. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen dipped a scant 11% to $888,546 lifting the total for CBS Films to $6.1M. The much-hyped documentary Bully widened with its new PG-13 cut playing in 158 theaters after screening in just six venues last weekend. The Weinstein Co. release grossed $535,433 for a dull $3,389 average and $814,635 cume.

The summer movie season got started overseas this weekend with Universal waging war early with the launch of its action tentpole Battleship which grossed an estimated $58M from debuts in 26 territories, 20 of which saw top spot bows. In Asian markets like Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, the mega-budgeted $200M+ production generated the best opening of 2012 to date. China and Russia, quickly becoming the most important overseas markets for Hollywood action movies, will bow next week with the international cume expected to soar. The early launch gives Universal a two-week headstart over the superhero event film The Avengers which invades markets around the world over the final weekend of April before debuting in North America a week later. That puts Battleship in a tactical position to commence its offshore attack an unusual five weeks before the stateside launch which is set for May 18.

The top ten films grossed $104.9M which was down 5% from last when Rio opened in the top spot with $39.2M; and off 3% from 2010 when Kick-Ass debuted at number one with $19.8M.

Compared to projections, The Three Stooges opened a few notches above my $14M forecast while The Cabin in the Woods was on target with my $15M prediction. Lockout debuted below my $9M projection.

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

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 Lucky Ones, Think Like a Man, and Chimpanzee all open.

# Title Apr 13 - 15 Apr 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Hunger Games $ 21,096,824 $ 33,111,557 -36.3 3,916 4 $ 5,387 $ 336,666,363 Lionsgate
2 The Three Stooges 17,010,125 3,477 1 4,892 17,010,125 Fox
3 The Cabin in the Woods 14,743,614 2,811 1 5,245 14,743,614 Lionsgate
4 Titanic 3D 11,930,249 17,285,453 -31.0 2,697 2 4,424 44,723,819 Paramount
5 American Reunion 10,473,810 21,514,080 -51.3 3,203 2 3,270 39,712,535 Universal
6 Wrath of the Titans 6,906,209 14,732,121 -53.1 3,102 3 2,226 71,252,005 Warner Bros.
7 Mirror Mirror 6,847,924 11,095,140 -38.3 3,206 3 2,136 49,316,185 Relativity
8 21 Jump Street 6,558,868 10,001,381 -34.4 2,735 5 2,398 120,323,681 Sony
9 Lockout 6,231,836 2,308 1 2,700 6,231,836 Open Road
10 The Lorax 3,051,285 5,030,025 -39.3 2,112 7 1,445 204,513,915 Universal
11 The Raid: Redemption 961,454 526,292 82.7 881 4 1,091 2,526,072 Sony Classics
12 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 888,546 992,428 -10.5 435 6 2,043 6,064,937 CBS
13 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 721,427 539,275 33.8 502 10 1,437 100,463,524 Warner Bros.
14 Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day 641,542 102 1 6,290 641,542 Code Black
15 October Baby 543,114 365,385 48.6 362 4 1,500 4,520,744 Goldwyn
16 Bully 535,433 73,754 626.0 158 3 3,389 814,635 Weinstein Co.
17 John Carter 346,858 830,305 -58.2 446 6 778 68,747,869 Disney
18 Safe House 337,610 575,990 -41.4 371 10 910 125,276,755 Universal
19 Housefull 2 286,735 847,132 -66.2 121 2 2,370 1,339,391 Eros
20 Blue Like Jazz 258,653 136 1 1,902 258,653 Roadside Attr.
Top 5 $ 75,254,622 $ 97,738,351 -23.0
Top 10 104,850,744 115,439,622 -9.2
Top 20 110,372,116 119,761,462 -7.8
Top 20 vs. 2011 110,372,116 125,459,120 -12.0

Last Updated: April 16, 2012 at 6:00PM ET

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