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How to Train Your Dragon Unseats 3D Rival Alice in Wonderland

by Anthony D'Alessandro
March 28, 2010 4:09 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

How to Train Your Dragon (Metascore 73 %) finally unseats holdover Alice in Wonderland at the weekend box office, reports TOH's Anthony D'Alessandro, with Hot Tub Time Machine (Tomatometer 63%) coming in third:

After all the fuss over the battle for 3D sites between Disney and Paramount, the latter’s DreamWorks Animation title How to Train Your Dragon harnessed No. 1 at the domestic box office with $43.3 million from 4,055 playdates.

While some box office analysts are crying foul that this figure reps a paltry opening weekend, particularly for a 3D film saddled with an estimated $165-million budget, these claims overlook the fact that animation films are a different breed at the box office than run-of-the-mill features. Toons have longer legs, making anywhere from 30-35% of their total domestic haul in their opening weekend, whereas the average bow reps 50%. Keeping this in mind, Dragon's weekend isn't below par for a spring toon release.

See full b.o. chart on jump.

“There is no doubt that there’s a lot of competition for 3D venues, but exhibitors are committed to us,” said DreamWorks Animation head of marketing and consumer products Anne Globe. “Dragon won’t lose a single 3D location in the coming weeks with Imax staying on for six weeks.”

Among DreamWorks Animated titles, Dragon ranks in the middle range, below Monsters vs. Aliens ($59.3 million), but better than 2006’s Over the Hedge ($38.5 million) and Bee Movie ($38 million).The only family-film competition Paramount-DreamWorks Animation must face in the coming weeks is itself. And because Shrek Forever After doesn't bow until May 21, Dragon has ample opportunity to soar in the coming weeks. The movie has an A Cinema Score, coupled with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – so it clearly has strong word-of-mouth.

Monsters vs. Aliens opened in the same frame a year ago and stayed alive in the top 10 through Memorial Day weekend. (Its final tallies: $198.4 million domestic, $382 million worldwide.) Furthermore, Dragon’s cost isn’t that lofty compared to the Paramount and DreamWorks budgets for Monsters ($175 million) and Bee Movie ($150 million).

Also, animated features rarely break opening weekend records as frequently as franchise films. To date, 2007’s Shrek the Third and 2004’s Shrek 2, also DreamWorks titles, remain unchallenged as the top two record three-day openings for animated films, respectively with $121.6 million and $108.0 million.

Despite all the hullabaloo surrounding the 3D fight, Paramount did snag slightly more in its first frame than Disney’s Alice: 2,178 to 2,063. Respectively, Imax was also higher: 186 to 180. 68% of Dragon’s domestic B.O. was generated from 3D hubs, proving that high ticket prices didn’t diminish turnout (Alice in Wonderland boasted a similar opening percentage of 65%).

Dragon skewed 49% under 25, 51% over, with a surprising lean toward females at 55%. “While the dragon theme is easily accessible to males, it has a tremendous amount of heart and emotional elements that the females really love,” pointed out Globe.

The weekend’s second wide release, MGM/UA’s R-rated Hot Tub Time Machine exhibited a good sense of timing, both in comedy and counterprogramming against the family crowd. Hot Tub soaked up $13.7 million at 2,754, which is solid considering its thrifty $35 million budget. “This film appealed to those people who remember the ‘80s and John Cusack,” said MGM Worldwide theatrical distribution president Erik Lomis about the film’s demographics which drew 58% over 25. “The younger crowd was brought in by the comedy, scoring an 85% recommend among younger males.” With MGM currently on the auction block, Lomis said the studio is focused on “keeping an eye on the ball and not getting distracted. Our marketing and distribution team succeeded in that.”

In its fourth weekend, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland still managed a powerful second place of $17.3 million with fewer 3D sites, counting 1,450 of its total 3,384 bookings.  All eyes are on next weekend as Warner Bros.’ 3D Clash of the Titans enters the ring.
 
1. How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount): $43.3 million in its first weekend at 4,055 theaters. $10,678 theater average. Domestic total: $43.3 million.
2. Alice in Wonderland (Disney): $17.3 million, down 50% in its fourth weekend at 3,384 theaters. $5,108 theater average. Domestic total: $293.1 million.
3. Hot Tub Time Machine (MGM/UA): $13.7 million in its first weekend at 2,754 theaters. $4,956 theater average. Domestic total: $13.7 million.
4. The Bounty Hunter (Sony): $12.4 million down 40% in its second weekend at 3,074 theaters, theater average $4,034. Domestic total: $38.8 million.
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Fox): $10 million down 55% in its second weekend at 3,083 theaters. $3,244 theater average. Domestic total: $35.8 million.
6. She’s Out of My League (Paramount): $3.5 million, down 39% in its third weekend at 2,432 theaters. $1,450 theater average. Domestic total: $25.6 million.
7. Green Zone (Universal): $3.4 million, down 44% in its third weekend at 2,557 theaters. $1,310 theater average. Domestic total: $30.4 million.
8. Shutter Island(Paramount): $3.18 million, down 33% in its sixth weekend at 2,123 theaters. Theater average $1,496. Domestic total: $120.6 million.
9. Repo Man (Universal): $3 million, down 50% in its second weekend at 2,519 theaters.  $1,210 theater average.  Domestic total: $11.3 million.
10. Our Family Wedding (Fox Searchlight): $2.2 million, down 41% in its third weekend at 1,132 theaters.  $1,943 theater average.  Domestic total: $16.8 million.

Also check indieWIRE's indie box office report, which reveals that SPC's Chloe opened surprisingly well (we'll see how it holds), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Greenberg are holding nicely, and The Runaways is in trouble. When Apparition owner Bill Pohlad changed the original wide release plan to a 244-screen 10-city platform followed by a later expansion on April 9, he really was saying, "Let's see if it works." Will Apparition broaden the film as widely as planned?

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