BOX OFFICE: Kids Flock To Hop; Adults Help Limitless and Lincoln Lawyer

It’s too early to tell if Universal’s animation division can grow and compete with the likes of Disney and DreamWorks, but for now it loves playing the spoiler. Going in to this weekend my early predictions was for Hop to clear between $25 to $28 million. It finished with $39 million. Just like last year’s Despicable Me it was able to outperform early estimates and make that connection with families for its opening weekend. While I don’t think it will clear as much as Despicable Me did ($544 million worldwide), it will have legs up through Easter weekend.

Is Jake Gyllenhaal leading man material? The jury’s still out. Prince of Persia and Love & Other Drugs didn’t exactly score at the box office in the U.S., but overseas they both recouped more than two times their domestic grosses. So while American audiences don’t see Gyllenhaal as a star, he is apparently a valued commodity in Europe. He’s also good at seeking out scripts for others. When he got the script for Source Code, he took it to Duncan Jones. Jones, coming off the critical success of Moon – his intelligent sci-fi film starring Sam Rockwell – read the script, liked it, and made it his sophomore feature. Costing seven times more than Moon‘s $5 million budget, the film finished the weekend with an estimated $15 million playing on a little more than 2900 screens. This is a good sign for science fiction features. With favorable reviews (89% on RT, 73 on MetaCritic) the word of mouth advertising should remain strong and help box office in terms of making gradual drops in attendance rather than take a steep nosedive. Science fiction is one of those genres that either go one of two ways. Either it’s driven heavily by its showy effects or its more cerebral. The latter doesn’t really cater to a strong box office, but this year already we’ve had three quality entries to the genre: Source Code, The Adjustment Bureau and Limitless.

The new distributor on the block, FilmDistrict, had a great showing with its first offering Insidious. The horror feature scored with the target demo – teenagers. Sold on its connection to the Saw series (James Wan and Leigh Whannell) and Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli produced), the film had a relatively light $1 million budget. Combine that with international sales, and FilmDistrict is already seeing green. With Poltergeist inspirations, the chiller may drop off next weekend, but it helps to reassure studios that James Wan is a director to keep an eye on as long as its a project with writer Whannell attached as well.

With a new kids flick and horror movie release this weekend it pretty much guaranteed that last week’s number one, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, would take a drop. And drop it did – by 58%. 20th Century Fox isn’t sweating, though. The first two Diary movies combined probably cost a forth of the entire Transformers 3 budget. Made on the cheap, the film will make even more money when it lands on home video.

Good news for adults: There are movies out in release that are targeted specifically for you. Good news for studios: Adults are venturing out to watch them. A few years ago, Universal experienced such a loss on return for features like State of Play and Duplicity (headlined by stars Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Julia Roberts) that they decided to embargo any projects that targeted older audiences. But then you have a feature like Taken that becomes such a hit that studios have to consider the possibility that maybe films for older audiences are safe again. Both Limitless and The Lincoln Lawyer are proof that films can have a box office presence if it can maintain most of its audience in subsequent weekends. Granted, this trend is an anomaly, but with favorable reviews older audiences are making an effort to catch them in theaters. Actors Bradley Cooper (Limitless) and Matthew McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer) don’t have a high demand in terms of salary so the risk-reward is less than having a Pitt, Jolie or Washington attached to star.

Okay, hands raised for those who saw this coming. A 74% drop in audience participation for Warner Bros.’ Sucker Punch. Yikes. (On the bright side it didn’t quite match Friday the 13th‘s 80% drop in 2009.) Panned by critics and rejected by audiences, and with an undefined target audience the writing was on the wall well before Zack Snyder’s first original film made it out of post-production. I’m not saying that Snyder’s contributions in the past for WB (300, Watchmen) gives him Carte blanche to let his imagination go wild, but the studio may want to make sure that they don’t give him such a large budget ($80 million) for an original idea. Stuff like this is dangerous for a studio. But there is one silver lining in terms of studios taking meetings with a hot director. At any point in the meeting, just as the director gives his grandiose vision with visual aids and flamboyant hand gestures, if you get the feeling that you have a “sucker punch” on your hands just go ahead and stop the meeting.

Well, it looks like kids have replaced their toy geckos with stuffed Easter bunnies. Rango, one of the costliest releases of 2011, should make close to $375 million worldwide when it wraps up. Still, Paramount can make proclaim that it is the biggest release of the year – until summer arrives. Rounding out the list is the most expensive U.S. Marines PSA ever produced, Battle: Los Angeles and Paul. The Simon Pegg-Nick Frost comedy would have made more over the weekend, but its target audience was too busy watching four minutes of Green Lantern footage online.

Venturing to the world of arthouse and below 1000 screen releases, this weekend saw the debut of In a Better World. The recent Best Foreign Film Oscar winner collected $35k. David Schwimmer’s Trust starring Clive Owen and Catherine Keener played on 28 screens and earned $60k. The Paladin release, Cat Run saw a small release in AMC theaters and made $30.1k. Jane Eyre continues to perform well as a limited engagement. It’s earned $3.5 million in twenty-four days. This weekend saw the re-release of The King’s Speech only this time titled as “The King’s Speech: How Many F-Bombs Does It Take to Get a PG-13 Rating Edition.” It managed to bring it $1.2 million on 1000 screens.

1. Hop – $38 million
2. Source Code – $15 million
3. Insidious – $13.5 million
4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules – $10 million ($38 million overall)
5. Limitless– $9.4 million ($56 million overall)
6. The Lincoln Lawyer – $7 million ($40 million overall)
7. Sucker Punch – $6 million ($30 million overall)
8. Rango – $4.6 million ($114 million overall)
9. Paul – $4.3 million ($32 million overall)
10. Battle: Los Angeles – $3.5 million ($78 million overall)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,