Dreamworks 3D animated feature How to Train Your Dragon flew to the top spot at this weekend’s North American box office en-route to dethroning Disney’s smash hit Alice in Wonderland from the top spot. MGM’s R-rated comedy, Hot Tub Time Machine, finished a distant third.
Arriving on a wave of positive reviews (a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), the heavily-hyped Dragon landed on 4,005 screens for an estimated $43.3 million and a per screen average of $10,678. While the debut is a solid one for this time of the year, it still carries a slight tinge of disappointment with it. In comparison to the debuts of other March cartoons, Dragon opened lower than the likes of last year’s Monsters vs. Aliens ($59.3 million), 2002’s Ice Age ($46 million) and its 2006 sequel ($68 million).
With such strong reviews – and a huge screen count – working in its advantage, one has to wonder why the weekend gross wound up lower than expected. The continuing success of Alice in Wonderland, aimed directly at the same demographic, would be the obvious factor. The other could be the higher ticket prices that were implemented this past Friday by eight national theater chains. With theaters now charging anywhere between $15-20 a ticket to see a movie in 3D, many viewers may have decided that the cost for a trip to the movies simply is not worth it (leave it to the boneheads in Hollywood to raise ticket prices during a recession). After all, why pay that amount for a ticket to see a film once when in a few months time you can own the film on DVD or Blu-ray for close to the same price (if not lower)?
Still, the film might be able to emerge as a theatrical hit over the next few weeks. Next weekend is Easter, which usually translates into big ticket sales (especially for family films). Word-of-mouth could also be a benefactor to sustaining weekend ticket sales, which could help cushion the post-Easter percentage drops.
Speaking of Tim Burton’s blockbuster, Alice may have lost a third of its 3D and IMAX screens but it still held strong, managing to haul in another $17.3 million to bring its total to $293.1 million. Off 49% from last weekend’s take of $34.2 million, the film could still finish up its run in the neighborhood of $340-350 million.
In third spot was MGM’s heavily-hyped comedy Hot Tub Time Machine landing with a soft $13.6 million from 2,754 screens for a per-screen average of $4,956. The studio had very high hopes for the R-rated John Cusack film, which received its fair share of positive reviews. Unfortunately, audiences had trouble seeing past the ridiculous title, opting to spend their ticket money elsewhere. Home video prospects will no doubt be stronger.
Fourth spot went to the Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston action comedy The Bounty Hunter, which held up fairly well in its second weekend. Off only 40% from last weekend, the film nabbed an estimated $12.4 million to bring its ten day total to $38.8 million. Watch for the $40 million film to finish its run between $50-55 million.
Fifth spot went to last weekend’s surprise number two winner, Fox’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which saw most of the book’s fans come out on opening weekend as the fell a sharp 55% to an estimated $10 million and a new ten day total of $35.7 million. Watch for the family comedy to finish in the same neighborhood as Bounty Hunter with $50-55 million in ticket sales.
In sixth place was Paramount’s resilient little sex comedy She’s Out of My League, which fell a slim 39% from last weekend to gross $3.9 million for a new estimated total of $26 million. The pricey Matt Damon action flick Green Zone dropped 46% from last weekend for a $3.35 million take for the weekend and a new total near $30.4 million. Eighth spot went to Martin Scorsese’s thriller Shutter Island, adding $3.1 million to its coffers to bring its total to $120 million.
Rounding out the top ten were two films enjoying their last weekend in the group: Universal’s sci-fi dud Repo Men fell 50% from last weekend to gross $3 million to bring its ten day total to a weak $11 million. In tenth spot was Our Family Wedding with $2.2 million and a new estimated total of $16.8 million. And for the first time since it opened four months ago, James Cameron’s Avatar dropped out of the top ten. With the video release less than a month away, the movie dropped by half from last weekend to add another $2 million to its overall domestic gross, which now sits near $741 million.
Next weekend, Warner will enter the 3D battle with its remake of Clash of the Titans alongside Disney’s Miley Cyrus drama The Last Song and Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too.
– Shawn Fitzgerald