BOX OFFICE: Russell Brand Wins Twice With Hop And Arthur

With the way this year has progressed so far, I’m starting to wonder if Hollywood is a front for the Mob. But that can’t be. The Mob usually takes care of garbage – not allow it to permeate in a location where it will attract attention. Yet a lot of garbage has been allowed to find its way into theaters – Red Riding Hood, The Dilemma, et al. It is now April and we don’t have a single bonafide, wrap it and put a gift tag on it, box office hit. Rango and Just Go With It have surpassed $100 million each, but must still be considered underperformers due to costs and expected returns. Face it, Hollywood is in a bad funk right now. The previous years had Avatar and Alice in Wonderland to offset the difference of such a bad box office. We don’t have that this year.

This weekend had four new wide release trying to dethrone last week’s number one, Hop . The live-action family film with weird looking rabbits and chickadees easily repeated in the top spot with $21 million. Kids rule at the box office and the genre continues to thrive. Well, I take that back and add a caveat. The genre continues to thrive – unless you title your movie Mars Needs Moms , a 3D-animated feature by Disney that was sort of dropped onto the masses with little advertising or fanfare. Universal timed the release of Hop a few weeks prior to Easter weekend. As such, in its second weekend of release it lost about 42% of its audience. Where did the kids go? Did they stay home and watch The Sandlot on Blu-ray?

The floppy-eared rabbit better gobble up as much cash as it can because this upcoming weekend sees the release of Rio, a new animated feature from Sony Pictures and Blue Sky Studios. Blue Sky’s last feature just happens to be the billion-dollar grossing (serious) Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

The closest competition to Hop was Arthur. A remake that no one was desiring came in way below what Warner Bros. was expecting. Could it be that audiences weren’t interested in seeing Russell Brand as a spoiled rich kid who was the sole heir to a $950 million fortune. Oh, and to ensure that he keep sucking on that teet to keep the money flowing in, he had to marry Elektra – I mean Jennifer Garner. That would have made quite the pairing. To see Brand dressed up as Batman and Garner in her Elektra costume. The only winner in all of this would be Brand. Because he can gloat that he has two of the top films at the box office right now. He is the starring voice in Hop and he plays Arthur. Maybe now the wifey, Katy Perry, will stop nagging him.

Nipping on Arthur‘s heels was Joe Wright’s Hanna. An unequivocal success when weighing its budget versus first week earnings, it appears there were those audiences who were willing to take a chance and see something that appeared like a warmed-up Jason Bourne leftover but with a teenage girl in the Bourne role. With a 71% fresh rating on RT, there were still those who couldn’t buy Saoirse Ronan as a pint-sized badass. That’s too bad, because Wright incorporates a number of single-take sequences, including one that follows Eric Bana’s character from a terminal, down a stairwell and into a corridor where he is confronted by a number of enemies. Plus you have The Chemical Brothers doing the score. A beat of one of their songs acts as a calling card for Tom Hallander’s Isaacs character. Quite a viscous streak he shows. And to think, he played Mr. Collins in Wright’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

While it wasn’t a total wipeout, in terms of wide releases Soul Surfer didn’t nail that box office wave. Those audiences who did see it seemed to enjoy it immensely – it registered an A+ Cinemascore. The challenge will be how it does in the weeks to come. Will audiences be inspired after seeing a fictional account of the teen surfer that lost arm to a shark bite? Will they spread the word like gospel, telling others that have to see this – it’s soooooo gooooood. Text it to all their friends. OMG C-THIS!!

Just below the teenage killer and teenager surfer was the horror flick Insidious. It had the lowest percentage drop of the top ten releases with 26%. Either the word on the street must be good, or it’s because theaters are devoid of horror entertainment. That will all change this weekend when Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, and the Weinsteins attempt to make audiences scream (and laugh) again with Scream 4. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sidney, Ghostface, and a new crop of victims becomes the first 2011 release to open above $40 million. No way it’ll threaten Fast and Furious‘ 2009 bow with $70.9 million in its first weekend, however.

Unless Universal changes its strategy to nothing but kid movies, it looks like they’ll have to be resigned to fact that the studio is a bomb factory. Your Highness flopped – royally. The combination of Danny McBride, James Franco, David Gordon Green, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel was not a winning hand. Earning less than $10 million when the studio expected low-20s isn’t a good start. Frankly, I blame the marketing. The studio didn’t know if it wanted to market it as a medieval stoner comedy or a spoof of the fantasy genre. The comedy is of the niche variety, so of course audiences would be confused with its sense of humor. What will surely become a cult hit in certain circles, for now Universal should just wash its hands of the matter and give it a royal flush down the toilet.

In its second week of release, Duncan Jones’ Source Code continued to perform well. A $9 million weekend is solid considering that it’s science fiction and has Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead. Gyllenhaal isn’t a matinee star in America, but overseas you’d think he was the second coming of Tom Cruise. Okay, that might be stretching it. But the actor’s films do considerably better, almost making three times as much money. As for Jones, Source Code‘s continued success only helps to add fuel to the “Fox really wants Jones to direct The Wolverine” rumors.

After a month in theaters, Relativity’s Limitless is proving to be a needed distraction for older audiences. It along with The Lincoln Lawyer, which finished in tenth place over the weekend, is proving that a movie geared for the 25-49 crowd if it is marketed well it can reach its intended target. Combined both features have amassed more than $100 million in ticket sales in the United States alone. Limitless has raked in another $23 million overseas. The only other kid flick in wide release, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, has stuck it out for $45 million after three weeks. Give it three more weeks in wide release, then continue to take its screens away. My suspicion is that Fox will have the movie ready to go on DVD just in time for the start of the fall semester and kids go back to school.

Looking at films playing on less than 1000 screens, both Win Win and Jane Eyre continue to see their grosses increase as their studios slowly roll them out. Warner Bros.’ Born to Be Wild (IMAX) opened on 206 screens and earned $850k. No Eres Tu, Soy Yo pulled $600k on a little more than hundred screens each. Meek’s Cutoff debuted with $22k on two screens. Instead of proving there is no spoon, Keanu Reeves proved there is no audience for Henry’s Crime. It only collected $7.5k on two screens. Bill & Ted 3 can’t get here fast enough.

1. Hop – $21.7 million ($68 million overall)
2. Arthur – $12.6 million
3. Hanna – $12.3 million
4. Soul Surfer – $11.1 million
5. Insidious – $9.7 million ($27 million overall)
6. Your Highness – $9.5 million
7. Source Code – $9 million ($29 million overall)
8. Limitless – $5.7 million ($64 million overall)
9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules – $4.9 million ($45 million overall)
10. The Lincoln Lawyer – $4.6 million ($46 million overall)

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