Russell Brand to Dominate With 'Arthur,' 'Hop' at Weekend Box Office
Also opening domestically are "Hanna," starring Saoirse Ronan; 'Your Highness," with James Franco and Natalie Portman; and the Bethany Hamilton biopic "Soul Surfer."
Reformed British bad boy Russell Brand is poised to sweep the domestic box office race between his holdover family film Hop and the new entry Arthur, a remake of the classic 1981 comedy that starred Dudley Moore.
Universal's CGI/live-action hybrid Hop, voiced by Brand and opening to $37.5 million last weekend, is widely expected to top the domestic chart in its second frame.
Warner Bros.' Arthur remake should come in No. 2, with tracking suggesting an opening weekend gross of $15 million-$17 million. Also starring Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner and Greta Gerwig, Arthur goes out in 3,276 theaters.
The three other new films this weekend are Focus Features' smart action-thriller Hanna, directed by Joe Wright; Universal's raunchy R-rated comedy Your Highness; and TriStar/FilmDistrict's Bethany Hamilton biopic Soul Surfer.
While there's no consensus on how the three films will ultimately rank, box office observers agree on one point: They should attract a diverse crowd, from stoner comedy fans to teen girls to faith-based audiences. Pundits predict that Hanna, Your Highness and Soul Surfer should gross in the $8 million-$12 million range, depending.
Hanna -- starring Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones), Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana -- opens in 2,535 locations and has the advantage of being the only new action film. It's tracking best among men, both older and younger.
Wright's film revolves around the young daughter of an ex-CIA agent who has been trained to become the perfect assassin. Hanna further solidifies his relationship with Focus, which also made Wright's Atonement. Much of Hanna's budget was financed through foreign presales, with Sony Pictures picking up rights to a number of major territories.
Your Highness, set in medieval times, is hoping to capitalize on being the only hard R-rated comedy in the marketplace. The project reteams David Gordon Green and James Franco, who worked together on Pineapple Express, another stoner comedy.
Costing slightly less than $50 million to produce, Your Highness also stars Danny McBride, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel. The movie -- originally set to open last fall -- is tracking best among younger males, Green's core fan base, and goes out in 2,769 locations.
Soul Surfer, based on the real-life story of the young surfer who lost her arm during a shark attack in Hawaii, is targeted at teenage girls and their moms, along with faith-based moviegoers. Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney's FilmDistrict marketed the film, while Sony's TriStar is releasing it. Soul Surfer opens in 2,214 locations.
FilmDistrict's marketing chief Jeanne Berney worked closely with Sony label Affirm Pictures in reaching out to such faith-based groups as youth ministries. In her book, Hamilton describes relying heavily on her faith when recovering from the attack. Soul Surfer stars Annasophia Robb, Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid.
In addition to Hop, holdovers to watch include Summit Entertainment's Source Code and FilmDistrict's Insidious.
The specialty box office sees a slew of new openers, including Warner Bros.' educational documentary Born to Be Wild, which plays exclusively in 206 Imax theaters. Drew Fellman directed the documentary about animal orphanages.
Pantelion Films, a co-venture of Lionsgate and Televisa, opens Mexican box office hit No eres tu, soy yo in 226 theaters in the top 20 Latino markets.
Oscilloscope opens Meek's Cutoff in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles, while Moving Pictures' Henry's Crime also opens in two locations.