Inside Pulse Box Office Report: DreamWorks' Dragon Flies Higher Than the Rest

With a gross of $43.3 million, DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon was the big grosser at the box office this weekend. It probably would have done even better if it weren’t for Alice in Wonderland and its 3-D presentations. We’re three months into the new year, and so far it has primarily been 3-D films that have either opened or rested in the #1 spot. Though for the month of February, the box office was dominated by 2-D releases as Valentine’s Day, Shutter Island and Dear John were the top earners.

Well, that’s good about Dragon. The marketing campaign was all wrong and it still managed to soar to a figure greater than $40 million. Unlike Tim Burton’s imaginative film run amuck, here was a great little film that I’m sure will be around in the top ten for the next few weeks based on word-of-mouth advertising and its certified fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes (currently 97%).

As for Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, it fell to second place with $17.3 million, but is close to earning $300 million in just four weeks of release. Quite a remarkable achievement, however Avatar – which finally drops out of the top ten in its fifteenth week of release! – made it to $300 million in only fifteen days. (The Dark Knight still holds the record of eclipsing the mark the fastest by doing it in just ten days.)

Even though the comedy had an awesome title, Hot Tub Time Machine had a mediocre bow placing third with $13.6 million. It reportedly cost $36 million, so MGM better hope it does well in the coming weeks or clean up on home video. It was nice to see John Cusack get back to his ’80s roots, but it is Craig Robinson who shines in his role. Having stolen scenes in comedies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Pineapple Express, sooner or later he’ll be calling the shots when he headlines his own comedy. The other R-rated comedy in the top ten, She’s Out of My League, shows that Jay Baruchel is a double threat by having two films in the top ten. (He voices the hero character Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon). Next he’ll be appearing in the Jerry Bruckheimer production The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Nicolas Cage.

The Bounty Hunter takes a plunge and finishes one spot lower than it did in its opening weekend (where it lost to a “wimpy kid who keeps a diary“) to finish in fourth place with $12.4 million. I finally caught the movie over the weekend even though I read Scott’s criticism, but what can I say, I’ll watch just about anything. I would never force anyone to see The Bounty Hunter (unless I didn’t like him), so I don’t know why people would be telling others to see it. I don’t think I even laughed once. Future screenwriters make a note: A War of the Roses romance in a bounty hunter set-up does not work.

Green Zone, the action vehicle that was marketed heavily as a successor to the Bourne series (mainly because of it being another Damon-Greengrass collaboration) has made it to $30 million. Hooray! Wait, it took three weeks to reach that amount. Strike 1. Not bad considering it is a movie about the war in Iraq. Wait again, it cost $100 million. Strike 2. Universal released it weeks after its Wolfman was met with little fanfare. Strike 3. Not helping the studio any is Repo Men, the futuristic organ harvesting sci-fi actioner that cost $32 million. This weekend it made $3 million to bring its total gross to $11.3 million. What makes it worse is that the movie is top-lined by an Academy Award winner, a two-time Academy Award nominee and a Tony Award winner. I’m sure these movies were greenlighted with the best intentions, but so far they haven’t panned out for Universal.

While How to Train Your Dragon dominated the per-screen averages in mainstream cinemas, it was Hubble 3D and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that dominated the independent/limited-release scene. Both are playing on less than 45 screens and both had per-screen averages of $8,000 or more.

Atom Egoyan’s erotic thriller Chloe opened on 350 screens and netted just over a million. I haven’t had a chance to see it, but it is very likely that it will get more mainstream attention because it features Liam Neeson, who plays Zeus in Clash of the Titans, and Amanda Seyfried of Big Love and Dear John fame.

Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg expanded in its second week from three screens to 181 and finished with a total that could easily be flip-flopped with Chloe once the final totals come in.

1. How to Train Your Dragon – $43.3 million ($43.3 mil.)
2. Alice in Wonderland – $17.3 million ($293 mil.)
3. Hot Tub Time Machine – $13.7 million ($13.7 mil.)
4. The Bounty Hunter – $12. 4 million ($38.8 mil.)
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – $10 million ($35.8 mil.)
6. She’s Out of My League – $3.5 million ($25.6 mil.)
7. Green Zone – $3.4 million ($30.4 mil.)
8. Shutter Island – $3.2 million ($121 mil.)
9. Repo Men – $3 million ($11.3 mil.)
10. Our Family Wedding – $2.2 million ($16.8 mil.)

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