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 last year’s top four films alone grossed more than all films this weekend combined.
Universal delivered the biggest opening ever for a kidpic in April with its Easter Bunny flick Hop which bowed to an estimated $38.1M. The PG-rated hybrid of animation and live-action averaged a potent $10,650 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 estimate matched the bow of Rango which currently holds the record for 2011’s largest opening weekend. Final numbers to be released on Monday will determine if the rabbit film can edge Johnny Depp’s lizard toon.
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 an estimated $15M from 2,961 theaters for a good $5,076 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 an estimated $13.5M in third place. The PG-13 chiller averaged a good $5,605 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 57% from its top spot debut was the kidpic sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules which took in an estimated $10.2M in its second weekend for fourth place. The Fox release, which cost just $20M to produce, has grossed a solid $38.4M 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 an estimated $9.4M, off only 38%, for a $55.6M 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 34% to an estimated $7.1M for a $39.6M 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 an estimated $6.1M. The pricey $75M production has banked just $29.9M 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 53% and took in an estimated $4.6M pushing Paramount’s sum to $113.8M.
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 an estimated $4.3M, down 45%, and has taken in $31.9M to date. Sony’s action pic fell harder with a 54% decline to an estimated $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 an estimated $35,400. The Danish film averaged a respectable $8,850 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 an estimated $111.8M which was down a sizable 33% from last year when Clash of the Titans opened in the top spot with $61.2M; and off 24% 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.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!