This weekend, the angry and not-so-angry birds of the 3D animated smash Rio held onto the top spot at the North American box office for a second weekend in a row. Results for the Easter frame’s three new releases were good as the Tyler Perry comedy Madea’s Big Happy Family, the circus romance Water for Elephants, and the nature documentary African Cats all connected with their respective audiences. Ticket sales for the Top 20 were up a sharp 40% from a year ago which was not a holiday session, but down a troubling 23% from 2010’s record Easter weekend. Most holdovers did remain strong though.
Still attracting large crowds, Rio fended off the Tyler Perry machine to retain the number one spot with an estimated $26.8M over the holiday weekend dropping only 32% from its debut to boost the ten-day tally to a muscular $81.3M. The hold was on par with what Fox saw nine years ago with Ice Age which fell 35% in its second weekend in March 2002 which was not a holiday. With schools out on Good Friday, Rio had a more available audience that day helping to cushion the blow. Both films were directed by Carlos Saldanha as were the Ice Age sequels.
Rio’s sophomore decline was almost even with last spring’s leggy hit How To Train Your Dragon which slipped 34%, but easily bested the second weekend drops for recent spring toons Rango (-41%), Monsters vs. Aliens (-45%), and Horton Hears a Who (-45%). At its current pace, Rio could find its way to the neighborhood of $160M from North America and plenty more overseas. The international haul after three weeks soared to $204.7M after a sturdy $44.2M international frame putting the global gross at a towering $286M with much more to come. The worldwide take should easily climb past the $500M mark in the coming weeks as 3D animated kidpics, especially ones set outside of the U.S., travel very well.
Tyler Perry scored the fourth biggest opening of his career with his latest comedy Madea’s Big Happy Family which debuted close behind in second place with an estimated $25.8M from 2,288 theaters for a robust $11,254 average. While on its way to being another moneymaker for the filmmaker and Lionsgate, this new PG-13 entry showed some audience erosion when compared to the director’s past films. Happy fell behind the openings of Perry’s last two Madea pics – 2006’s Madea’s Family Reunion ($30M) and 2009’s Madea Goes to Jail ($41M). Perry’s most recent comedy, last year’s Why Did I Get Married Too which bowed on Good Friday as well, also debuted better with $29.3M.
While Tyler Perry films tend to draw in his fan base on the first weekend and suffer large declines in following weeks – his films tend to make 45-48% of their totals in the first three days – Happy scored a rare A CinemaScore so word-of-mouth could allow for a slightly better road ahead. African Americans made up the usual share of the audience (81%) but females were a somewhat smaller portion of the crowd at 72%. Married Too was 80% female.
Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson drew a solid crowd for their romantic drama Water for Elephants which premiered in third place with an estimated $17.5M. Based on the best-selling novel, the PG-13 film averaged $6,212 from 2,817 locations and played heavily to female audiences, lovers of the book, and Twilight fans that follow Pattinson religiously. Critics had mixed feelings but the built-in audiences came out anyway giving Fox the best opening for an adult drama this year so far. Mature-skewing thrillers and comedies have done exceptionally well this year, but regular dramas have seen more modest numbers on the first weekend. An A- CinemaScore suggests a good run ahead as counter-programming to a steady diet of testosterone flicks about to attack multiplexes.
– Read the full box office article at RottenTomatoes.com
Overperforming in its opening was Fox 2000’s period circus romance Water for Elephants, which debuted to $17.5 million from 2,817 locations. Based on Sara Gruen’s bestselling book and directed by Francis Lawrence, the film stars Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz.
Water for Elephants drew an A- CinemaScore, and played heavily to adult women. Females made up 70% of the audience, while 70% were over the age of 25. The film’s successful opening is a win for Fox’s marketing team, which targeted fans of the book, as well as playing up the love story.
“It is a great number for an adult film. When a movie shows emotion, that’s what draws you in,” Fox senior vice president of domestic distribution Bert Livingston said. “This really overperformed, and will have great legs.”