By Gabe Toro | The Playlist April 17, 2011 at 6:18AM
There’s no way to sugarcoat this: it’s been a dismal year at the box office. Studios have their fingers crossed in regards to a tepid-looking summer schedule, but many were hoping the season could be kick(punch)-started early with a strong April, as two new films were tracking well over $40 million this weekend. And it looks like those hopes are for naught, as the number one movie for this period looks to be Fox and Blue Sky’s animated “Rio,” clocking in juuuust about at $40 million for the three day weekend. Yes, Hollywood, it's taken more than four months to register year's first $40 million opening weekend.
This debut, weaker even than the less-than-spectacular worldwide results for the film last weekend, is lower than any of Blue Sky’s recent releases save for “Robots,“ which grabbed $36 million six years ago without the benefit of 3D pricing. Furthermore, the three-day tally is more in the ballpark with the most recent kid picture “Hop,” which didn’t carry a 3D surcharge. What’s startling is that the most fail-safe offering a studio can produce is a CG-animated film, provided there’s a solid marketing budget behind the picture, and with “Rio,” “Hop” and “Rango,” this season has seen three serious underperformers in that subgenre.
News was far less rosy for the fourth entry in the “Scream” series. Weeks ago, “Scream 4” was tracking to open in the mid-$50 million range, but industry insiders knew that wouldn’t last. But the expectations were that the film would open in the $30 million vicinity of the second and third movies, and not do the sort of business we can expect from a “Saw” sequel. As is, the “horror blockbuster” has been more common in recent years, but it’s more of an anomaly than expected, and “Scream 4” is actually on the high end of horror sequel openings.
That doesn’t change the fact that The Weinstein Company was expecting huge numbers for their return to a series where each installment grossed at least $150 million worldwide over a decade ago. “Scream 4” has maybe one more weekend before the fan base moves on to “Fast Five” and the start of the summer season, but with these numbers, “Scream 4” might need legs to gross half of the “Scream 3” domestic total. This is also not good business.
“Hop” continued to bring in family audiences, though the picture took a noticeable hit with the kiddie film competition. Finishing the weekend at $83 million, the film certainly has a shot at $100, but it’s worth noting "Hop" has definitely been registering weaker holds that family films usually boast. “Hop” was able to outdistance itself from a crowded field of competitors from last weekend, with “Soul Surfer” holding the strongest in week two. The faith-and-family-and-sharks drama eclipsed “Hanna,” which spent the week nestled in the number two box office spot behind “Hop,” the $30 million thriller generated better-than-expected returns.
Skipping about in the bottom rung is “Arthur,” which was handily leapfrogged by a number of its competitors from last weekend. The picture should finish around $35 million, which probably covers the ad budget. This wasn’t expected to be a home run, but this number definitely hurts Warner Bros. Posting the lowest audience drop for the second straight weekend was “Insidious,” which, after final numbers are released Monday, could find itself still in the top five. “Insidious” bucked trends not only for holding steady while other horror pictures fall apart after the first weekend, but also surviving direct competition against “Scream.” The James Wan thriller could finish at $50 million domestic, a spectacular number considering the film cost about $1.5 million, and considering James Wan couldn’t direct a wino to Happy Hour.
“Source Code” continues to pull in curious audiences with very minor audience losses, and the film has had the legs to suggest a strong $50 million cume is in the cards. No such hope for “Your Highness,” which predictably plummeted in week two, with the outside possibility that the film won’t even crest $20 million total. Time to put that medieval sword-and-sorcery stoner comedy script you’ve been working on back on the shelf.
In limited release, “The Conspirator” generated minor interest, enough to break into the top ten on only 707 screens. Solid per-screen numbers also elevated the questionable-looking “Atlas Shrugged: Part One,” which debuted on 300 screens to a $1.6 million gross, which in Republican math is a million dollars per screen. The big indie winner continues to be “Win Win,” which added a number of theaters for a $1.3 million take this weekend. The film hasn’t generated the breakout success that Fox Searchlight expected, but they’ll take the $5 million total. “Jane Eyre” continues to play, though it seems like the picture has already peaked, currently at $6.6 million with smaller theater counts.
In much smaller indie news, “Double Hour” opened on two screens for $30k and the week‘s best per-screen average, followed on the charts by a three-screen $23k showing for “The Princess Of Montpensier.” Meanwhile, “The Imperialists Are Still Alive” managed $3k on one NY screen. Support your local art house theater, boys and girls.
1. Rio (Fox) - $40 million
2. Scream 4 (The Weinstein Company) - $19.3 million
3. Hop (Universal) - $11.2 million ($83 mil.)
4. Soul Surfer (Sony) - $7.4 million ($20 mil.)
5. Hanna (Universal/Focus) - $7.3 million ($23 mil.)
6. Arthur (WB) - $6.9 million ($22 mil.)
7. Insidious (FilmDistrict) - $6.8 million ($36 mil.)
8. Source Code (Summit) - $6.3 million ($37 mil.)
9. The Conspirator (Roadside Attractions) - $3.9 million
10. Your Highness (Universal) - $3.9 million ($16 mil.)