BOX OFFICE: Rio Has $40 Million Weekend, Scream 4 Is Silenced

Every week it seems like I’m repeating myself like a broken record. The movie box office sucks. It’s as simple as that. No doubt studios are looking to May for the start of the summer movie season, hoping that movies like Bridesmaids, Something Borrowed, and Jumping the Broom will lift up the box office. Oh, who am I kidding. No one cares about any of those. They want comic-book movies and a wizard named Harry. Maybe a wolfpack and some pirates. Not to mention damn dirty apes and talking cars. Those who have a keen awareness of future theatrical releases know that most movie fans are craving for Summer 2012. But that’s a year away – so we’ll have a number of pictures that have blockbuster potential, but some will probably not meet expectations. Which leaves the door open for quite a few summer sleepers this year. That could include Beginners, Crazy, Stupid, Love., The Help, Friends with Benefits, or a pair of comedies with Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses, The Change-Up).

For this third April weekend it looked like two new releases had a shot of clearing $40 million. Well one of those films did, and it wasn’t Scream 4. Last week, I predicted that it had a legitimate shot of making that amount. Just another reason why I’m not a member of the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX). The film that managed to just make it to $40 million, if box office estimates hold true, is Fox and Blue Sky’s animated Rio. It just, and I stress “just,” made $40 million. And that’s with the extra 3D surcharge. To its credit, it did play on a hundred screens less than last month’s animated release Rango, which opened just under $40 million. And that was without the 3D surcharge, since it wasn’t presented in three dimensions. While it is evidently clear that a CG-animated film with a strong advertising budget is about as foolproof as you can get for a #1 opening, it doesn’t necessarily mean blockbuster.

Scream 4 is definitely geared toward teens and those who still hold the original trilogy in high regard. As such, it was tracking at a huge opening number. But in the days leading up to its release, expectations were lowered and it looked like it would open where the second and third sequels did – in the $30 million range. Nope. The Weinstein Company was expecting huge numbers for its return to a series that had been dormant for eleven years. If that much time passes between movies you shouldn’t make another sequel. With a $19.5 million opening it better hope that word-of-mouth tracks better than critical analysis, because it only has another weekend before the teenagers make a change from horror to car porn, I mean Fast Five. That should burn rubber at the box office and leave Rio‘s $40 million opening in the rear-view mirror.

Hop continues to attract family viewers – it is the Easter Bunny season after all. Three weeks into its run it has $83 million. Not bad, but it’s not sustaining repeat viewership like recent family hits. It did just enough to give itself room from fourth place finisher, Soul Surfer. The family drama inspirational that combines the sport of surfing with shark awareness managed to pass Hanna, which actually finished in second place last week after actual box office totals came out. Joe Wright’s $30 million thriller is performing surprisingly well despite not having a bonafide movie star. But the stars present (Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, and Saoirse Ronan) aren’t B-teamers by any means.

Moving down the list is Arthur. Getting bested by two teenagers Russell Brand seems to be experiencing a teenage nightmare, not a “teenage dream.” Overall, the comedy probably cost upwards of $75 million, include production and advertising costs. It’ll be lucky if it makes half that. If it was Warner Bros.’ goal to follow in the footsteps of Universal, a studio that has had its share of bombs this year (The Dilemma, Sanctum), then it’s doing a respectable job.

Scream 4 may have had an almost $20 million opening, but it will be interesting to see how it finishes. Because right now its competition in the horror genre is James Wan’s Insidious. That PG-13 spookfest may have the better rating in terms of audience admittance and a two week head start, but the film also sports a $1.5 million budget as compared to Scream‘s $40 million. Currently, the James Wan thriller remains relatively strong, posting the lowest audience percentage drop in the top 10. It’s currently sitting at $36 million and could finish past $50 million before it leaves theaters. Scream fans may be laughing at the meta jokes, but Insidious may just have the last laugh in terms of overall performance.

Still proof that older audiences like to be entertained at the movies, Source Code is still pulling in audiences curious to see Jake Gyllenhaal blow up over and over again. It has an outside shot of netting $50 million. Limitless has made $70 million in five weeks. The legal thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer starring Matthew McConaughey, is a $50 million earner. Each one of these movies cost less than $40 million to produce, and each has made its budget. Combined with overseas grosses and home video sales and you have three modest if still minor box office winners. Just another reason why I champion smaller films and sleepers.

Taking a stroll from the cineplex to the art house to look at films playing on less than 1000 screens, we have Robert Redford’s The Conspirator breaking into the top 10 despite playing on only 707 screens. Atalas Shrugged: Part One had a slightly larger per-screen average than Conspirator and it debuted on 400 less screens to take $1.6 million for the weekend. Two stellar indie releases that continue to make millions are Win Win and Jane Eyre. Both are coasting with $5 million and $6.6 million, respectively.

1. Rio – $40 million
2. Scream 4 – $19.3 million
3. Hop – $11.2 million ($83 million overall)
4. Soul Surfer – $7.4 million ($20 million overall)
5. Hanna – $7.3 million ($23 million overall)
6. Arthur – $6.9 million ($22 million overall)
7. Insidious – $6.8 million ($36 million overall)
8. Source Code – $6.3 million ($37 million overall)
9. The Conspirator – $3.9 million
10. Your Highness – $3.9 million ($16 million overall)

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