Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekend Box Office (04/24/11): Rio holds strong, Madea and Water for Elephants open well on Easter weekend.

It was another 'everybody wins' at the box office this Easter weekend, as every major new release opened at or above expectations, while most of the older movies had strong holds. 20th Century Fox's animated adventure Rio was number once again, as it fell just 32% for a $26.3 million weekend. The $90 million Blue Sky production has so far amassed $80 million domestically, while already grossing $286 million mark worldwide. It has already surpassed the $234 million worldwide haul of Rango to become 2011's top international grosser, if only for a week or two. The success of Rio exemplified the hidden good news in this first 1/3 of 2011. While others complained about the lack of massive opening weekends and the smaller cumulative weekend box office compared to last year, there was a flood of comparatively cheaper films that had slightly smaller opening weekends but displayed solid legs all season long. Money is money, and studios will take it over the first weekend or over the first ten days or so either way. Besides, considering that the theaters themselves get a larger cut (50/50 vs. around 30/70) after the first few weekends, you can bet that they'd greatly prefer smaller opening weekends but leggier exhibitions.

Coming in at a very close second place was Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family. Primed to take advantage of the more religious segment of the Easter crowd, Perry's latest spiritual dramedy opened with $25 million. This is the fifth Tyler Perry film to prominently feature Madea (she also had a climactic cameo in Meet the Browns), and it's right in the middle of Madea's respective opening weekends. It was higher than Diary of a Mad Black Woman ($21 million) and I Can Do Bad All By Myself ($23 million), but lower than Madea's Family Reunion ($30 million), and Madea Goes to Jail ($41 million). This makes sense, as the newest film had Madea's name in the title (YAY!), but no real indication of what the movie was about (Boo!). As with all Madea films, Madea is in a supporting role; the real star was Loretta Devine as a matriarch dying from cancer. Anyway, the film cost the usual $25 million and should be gone in a flash like most of Perry's entries, profitable as always to the one-man media empire. Whether or not this is indeed the finale of the Madea saga (Perry has a whole bunch of other projects line up) or whether we'll see her again after Perry finishes a dark and dramatic picture like The Family That Preys or For Colored Girls (as has been the pattern), this solid opening proves that Tyler Perry is one of the most consistently bankable filmmakers in the business.

In a refreshing surprise, 20th Century Fox's Water For Elephants opened in third place with $16.8 million. The $38 million romantic drama about a depression-era circus is just another example of the other great trend this season, the return of the moderately-budgeted star-driven adult movie. We can debate about who gets the most credit for the opening (Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and/or the original novel itself), but this is just the kind of movie that pundits like to claim is no longer bankable. When you make pictures for grownups, grownups tend to go to the movies. Adult women were predictably the main demo for this one, and the film earned an 'A-' from Cinemscore. With summer kinda-sorta starting next weekend (don't tell me Fast Five isn't a summer blockbuster...), Water For Elephants is in prime territory to be the adult counter programming picture of choice for the next few weeks, so a leggy and profitable run should ensue. The last of the openers was Disney's African Cats (review), another in their annual series of nature documentaries. The film opened at $6 million, or equal to Oceans ($6 million) and a bit below Earth ($8.8 million). However, the film pulled off a terrible 1.8x weekend multiplier, doing $3.3 million of that on Friday alone. It actually has the lowest weekend multiplier on record. Oceans cost $80 million, and grossed $19 million in America while pulling in $63 million overseas. Expect African Cats (which my three-year old quite enjoyed, even if it made my wife cry) to follow suit. These projects are basically longterm investments, as Disney should expect African Cats to be shown in classrooms and on the Disney Channel for decades to come.

In holdover news, Hop rose 13% over the Easter weekend and crossed $100 million in the process. Scream 4 (radio review) dropped a massive 62% in its second weekend, compared to 57% for Scream 2 and 53% for Scream 3 in their respective second weekends. The mediocre horror sequel has pulled in just $7 million and ending day ten with $3 million. In other words, Scream 4 is ending weekend two with less than Scream 2 and Scream 3 earned in their respective opening weekends. In other words, unless overseas business is huge or the film rents a billion times, don't expect a Scream 5. Source Code (-18%) and Insidious (-22%) both sit at $44 million, which is doubly impressive for the $1.5 million horror picture, which will likely outgross Scream 4 (review) domestically. Soul Surfer had another strong hold (-25%) and now sits at $28 million, while Hanna (-27%) crossed the $30 million mark in weekend three. In purely foreign debuts, the first two summer heavyweights bowed early outside the US. Thor (opening May 6th stateside) debuted in Australia and pulled in a mighty $5.8 million in its first full week. Fast Five (opens next week here) pulled a terrific $24 million on its first international weekend, setting the shockingly good action picture up for a huge domestic debut.

That's it for this weekend. Join us for the unofficial start of summer, as Universal debuts Fast Five (review), Disney debuts Prom, while Weinstein Company unleashes the not-so-eagerly awaited sequel Hoodwinked Too. Until then, take care and keep reading.

Scott Mendelson

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