Box Office Report: 'Hop' Scores Winning $38.1 Million Opening

 Universal

Universal's Easter-themed pic Hop far exceeded expectations in debuting to an estimated $38.1 million at the domestic box office, one of the best showings of 2011. But overseas, the CGI/live-action hybrid grossed a soft $7 million from 26 countries.

Either way, Hop -- Chris Meledandri’s second film for Universal after hit Despicable Me -- is off to a strong start financially, having cost $63 million to produce. Relativity Media co-financed the family film, starring James Marsden and voiced by Russell Brand.

Hop, playing in 3,579 theaters, earned a stellar A- CinemaScore. If estimates hold, Hop will all but tie with Paramount’s Rango for the best non-holiday opening of 2011. Final weekend numbers will be released Monday morning.

“It’s an unbelievable result. We had a great marketing campaign that told parents this was pure entertainment, and safe,” Universal president of distribution Nikki Rocco said. “When you saw the trailer, how could you not want to see this movie?”

Universal arguably has a tougher time marketing Hop overseas, since the film’s take on the Easter bunny is Americanized. The studio said good weather in Europe hurt Hop’s opening in U.K., Germany and Italy, with families wanting to spend their time outdoors. But rival studios said sunny skies didn’t entirely explain the weak results, which were particularly poor in Germany.

Universal expects business to pick up in Europe as more and more kids are out of school for spring break. Ditto for the U.S., although 20th Century Fox’s 3D toon Rio could pose tough competition when opening April 15.

Also making headlines at the domestic box office was FilmDistrict’s debut title Insidious, which opened to a better than expected $13.5 million from 2,408 theaters. That’s a sizeable victory, considering the horror pic -- from Paranormal Activity producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli -- cost less than $1.5 million to produce. Most box office observers thought the movie, made in the vein of Poltergeist, would only clear $10 million.

Insidious, starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, is the first title distributed by Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney’s FilmDistrict, which acquired domestic rights to the film. Canadian distributor Alliance financed Insidious through its deal with Blum and Peli’s Haunted Movies banner, while Stuart Ford’s IM Global handed foreign presales.

“For a new company to have the first film be a hit shows exhibitors that we’re doing what we promised—delivering wide release films backed by a substantial marketing budget,” Berney said.

Notably, a majority of Insidious’ audience was under the age of 25, while 38% of those buying tickets were Hispanics (the No. 2 market was El Paso). Caucasians made up 32% of the aud, while the movie skewed slightly female overall.

Blum said Berney and Jeanne Berney--FilmDistrict's head of mareketing--executed a great marketing and distribution strategy.

Insidious came in No. 3 behind Hop and the weekend’s other new film, Summit Entertainment’s Source Code, respectively.

Source Code opened in line with expectations, grossing an estimated $15 million from 2,961 locations. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan, the movie played heavily to adults, with 64% of the audience over the age of 30.

Both Source Code and Insidious received a B CinemaScore. Source Code skewed slightly male (54%).

“We found our niche. Based on the opening, we should have the same strong holdover as adult titles like Limitless and The Lincoln Lawyer,” Summit president of distribution Richie Fay said.

The other headline of the weekend was the PG-13 version of Oscar winner The King’s Speech, which succeeded in getting some family business, although not as much as the Weinstein Co. was hoping for.

Going out in 1,007 theaters, The King’s Speech: Rated PG-13 grossed an estimated $1.2 million, down 23% from the previous weekend, when the R-rated version grossed $1.5 million (the Weinstein Co. had wanted to stay at the same level).

Erik Lomis, Weinstein Co. president of theatrical distribution, said the PG-13 version generated business in some markets where it didn’t work before, including Salt Lake City and Toledo, Ohio.

Releasing a PG-13 version is a bold -- and unprecedented -- move on the Weinstein Co.’s part. The company hopes to keep the tamer cut in theaters even after the R-rated King’s Speech is released on DVD April 19.

Elsewhere, 20th Century Fox’s family film Diary of a Wimpy Kid took a hit because of Hop, but still stayed high up on the box office chart, coming in No. 4. Rodrick Rules -- winning the box office race the previous weekend—declined 57% in its second frame to an estimated $10.2 million from 3,169 theaters for a cume of $38.4 million in its first 10 days.

Relativity Media’s Bradley Cooper starrer Limitless came in No. 5, declining 38% to an estimated $9.4 million from 2,838 for a cume of $55.6 million in its third weekend.

The Lincoln Lawyer fell 34% -- the least of any film in the top 10 -- to an estimated $7.1 million from 2,707 theaters for a cume of $39.7 million in its third frame.

Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch fell a steep 68% in its second weekend to come in No. 7, grossing an estimated $6.1 million for a disappointing cume of $29.9 million.

All told, the domestic box office was down a hefty 30% from the same weekend a year ago, when Warner Bros.’ Clash of the Titans opened to $61.2 million and Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too, $29.3 million.

On the specialty side, Oscar foreign language winner In a Better World, distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics, opened to $35,379 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a per location average of $8,845.

Focus Features’ Jane Eyre and Fox Searchlight’s Win Win continued to expand nicely.

Jane Eyre grossed an estimated $1.2 million from 180 theaters for a cume of $3.5 million and theater average of $6,875 in its fourth weekend.

In its third weekend, Win Win grossed $1.2 million from 149 locations for a cume of $1.2 million and theater average of $7,887.

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