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Weekend Box Office: Rio Rolls Over New Openers Madea's Big Happy Family, Water for Elephants

by Anthony D'Alessandro
April 24, 2011 5:04 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

Niche fans for Tyler Perry and Rob Pattinson turned out for Madea's Big Happy Family and Water for Elephants, respectively, but family toon Rio continued to rock the box office. Anthony D'Alessandro reports:

Family films shined brightly at the Easter weekend box office as kids kept Fox’s Blue Sky Studio kid pic Rio in the top spot with $26.8 million while grandmoms and moms shelled out $25.75 million to see Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family. Fox execs were also crowing about solid returns for its $40-million Reese-Witherspoon-Robert Pattinson depression-era romance Water for Elephants, which beat its $15 million estimate with $17.5 million. Thanks to the bunny holiday, Hop jumped 17% in its fourth frame and secured a timely figure of $100.5 million.

Meanwhile kids who were OD-ed on CGI toons sampled Disney’s Earth Day-timed nature doc African Cats, which grossed $6.4 million – a figure that’s in the single-digit vicinity of previous non-fiction Mouse House titles such as April’s Oceans ($6.1 million opening, $19.4 million domestic cume) and 2009’s Earth ($8.8 million, $32 million).

Fox’s plan to capitalize on Easter spring break crowds a week in advance paid off for Rio, which posted decent single million figures mid-week and currently counts a domestic cume of $81.3 million through its second sesh. The studio implemented a similar distribution plan with Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! in 2008, bowing on Palm Sunday weekend to $45 million and holding the Easter top spot with $24.6 million (-45%). Unlike its flightless protagonist, Rio is staying afloat, slipping 32% from last weekend – the best second frame hold for a Blue Sky toon and a decent hold for a spring animated feature, respectively besting the -34% second frame declines of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and DreamWorks/Par’s How to Train Your Dragon.

The Easter sesh posted decent tickets sales for the current moviegoing economy, raking in $138 million, +6% from last weekend – the third up-frame this month. However, this weekend was no match for last Easter’s $177.6 weekend (-22%), which fell on April 2-4 and churned out the holiday record opener Clash of the Titans ($61.2 million).

The opening for Elephants comes as an upbeat sign for both Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. It indicates that the actress’ B.O. mojo hasn’t been dented by the disastrous How Do You Know ($7.5 million, $30.2 million) and that the actor can open a non-Twilight title. While Witherspoon worked the TV show circuit to publicize Elephants, nothing restored her America's Sweetheart image more than her high-profile marriage to CAA agent Jim Toth. In addition, she reminded fans of her down-to-earth affability with Conan O'Brien and Chelsea Lately. It's no surprise that Witherspoon and the equally high-profile Pattinson, who kissed his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart at the Elephants premiere, drew 70% females and 70% over 25.

Elephants, based on the bestselling tome, will no doubt be a cash cow for Fox which has kept to a strict cost/profit formula with chick lit adaptations , i.e. summer 2006 hit Devil Wears Prada ($27.5 million, $124.7 million) and Christmas 2008 grosser Marley and Me ($36.4 million, $143.2 million).

As summer draws near, Elephants is the only adult wide release in a tentpole jungle geared toward guys. However, in order to play wide, Elephants will need to pounce on the spring’s lethargic B.O. streak, which has been dogged by several critically-acclaimed dramas/thrillers; to date Relativity Media’s Limitless is the only one to reach the masses with a gross close to $75 million. “The best item to have when you have something for sale is word of mouth,” says Fox senior distribution vp Bert Livingston, who is happy with Elephants' A- Cinemascore.

Older women drove Madea’s Big Happy Family, which pulled 72%, 69% over 25. 81% of the audience was African American. Easter wouldn’t be Easter without a Tyler Perry film, hitting older church-going faith who have made his films part of their holiday traditions. The film grossed in the director/actor’s mid-$20 million range; it's his second best Easter bow, following last year’s Why Did I Get Married Too? ($29.3 million).

Top Ten Box Office Chart:

1. Rio (Fox) $26.8 million down 32% in its second weekend at 3,842 theaters. $6,976 theater average. Domestic total: $81.3 million.
2. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (Lionsgate) $25.75 million in its first weekend at 2,288 theaters. $11,255 theater average. Domestic total: $25.75 million.
3. Water for Elephants (Fox) $17.5 million in its first weekend at 2,817 theaters. $6,212 theater average. Domestic total: $17.5 million.
4. Hop (Universal/Relativity) $12.5 million up 17% in its fourth weekend at 3,616 theaters. $3446 theater average. Domestic total: $100.5 million.
5. Scream 4 (Weinstein Co.) $7.15 million down 62% in its second weekend at 3,314 theaters. $2,159 theater average. Domestic total: $31.2 million.
6. African Cats (Disney) $6.4 million in its first weekend at 1,220 theaters. $5,246 theater average. Domestic total: $6.4 million.
7. Soul Surfer (Tri-Star) $5.6 million down 23% in its third weekend at 2,240 theaters. $2,500 theater average. Domestic total: $28.7 million.
8. Insidious (Film District) $5.38 million down 20% in its fourth weekend at 2,130 theaters. $2,528 theater average. Domestic total: $44.2 million.
9. Hanna (Focus Features) $5.28 million down 27% in its third weekend at 2,384 theaters. $2,213 theater average. Domestic total: $31.7 million.
10. Source Code (Summit/Vendome) $5.1 million down 18% in its fourth weekend at 2,363 theaters. $2,143 theater average. Domestic total: $44.7 million.

Check out reviews, images and trailers for the weekend's offerings in our Weekend Preview.


  • Anthony | April 26, 2011 7:45 AMReply

    Tom, Rio was no. 1 Sunday with $5.756 million and Madea 2nd with $5.5 million.

  • Anthony | April 24, 2011 10:11 AMReply

    I don't know if Madea will end up #1. Last weekend, everyone overestimated their grosses; Rio and Scream 4 were lower than expected. Also, the entire B.O. goes down on Easter vs. Saturday. Last Easter Sunday, the family film Train Your Dragon outpegged Tyler Perry's film Married Two, $6.9 million to $6.6 million, (the Perry film was estimated to take second place AND came in under its $30.15 million estimate with an actual of$29.3 million).

  • Tom Brueggemann | April 24, 2011 7:05 AMReply


    It's possible Madea might end up #1 - Easter Sunday is a huge day for black audiences, much more so for n0n-black ones. It also can be strong for family films. Since the weekend gross is based totally on a estimate for Sunday's figures, don't be surprised if Madea ends up #1, or closer than it is now. And both films' figures might be higher.

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