'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' Beats 'Sucker Punch' With $24.4 Million at Weekend Box Office

8:52 AM PST 03/27/2011 by Pamela McClintock
20th Century Fox

Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" opens lower than expected with $19 million; "Limitless" and "Lincoln Lawyer" enjoy strong holds.

Fox 2000's sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules easily won the weekend box office race, grossing a hearty $24.4 million and delivering Fox a new franchise. Warner Bros.' Sucker Punch wasn’t as lucky, grossing $19 million in a soft start for the femme powered action-fantasy, from director Zack Snyder.

Rodrick Rules, based on the beloved childrens' book series and playing in 3,167 theaters, came in ahead of the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which opened a year ago to $22.1 million. Its standout performance reinforces the success that family films can enjoy, even while the rest of the box office suffers.

The sequel, costing $20 million to produce, enjoyed a mammoth 39% uptick on Saturday thanks to family traffic, with nearly 60% of the audience under the age of 18. The movie earned an A-CinemaScore, although younger kids gave it an A.

"Our main audience loved it," Fox senior vice president of distribution Bert Livingston said.

The success of Rodrick Rules, about a middle school boy and his brother, almost guarantees that Fox 2000 will make a third movie.

Sucker Punch, costing at least $75 million to produce, was co-financed by Warners and Legendary Pictures. Internally, Warners had expected the fanboy pic -- about a rough-and-tumble group of girls trying to escape from a mental institution -- to clear $20 million.

Snyder is incredibly important to Warners, having now directed four films for the studio. His 300 was by far the most successful. Next up for the filmmaker: Superman: Man of Steel.

Warners exec vice president of distribution Jeff Goldstein said Snyder’s core followers turned out for Sucker Punch, but beyond that, the film wasn’t as broad as his other movies. The movie opened in 3,033 theaters.

"Sucker Punch was more narrow. But when you are talking about something as broad as Superman: Man of Steel, the support for Snyder will be colossal," Goldstein said.

Males made up almost 65% of those buying tickets for Sucker Punch, while a majority of the audience was between the ages of 18 and 35. If any key demo was soft, it was teen boys.

Sucker Punch's Imax runs set records. Playing in 229 Imax locations, the movie grossed $4 million for the large format exhibitor, or 21% of the opening weekend gross. That’s the biggest share ever for a 2-D release in Imax, a favorite destination of fanboys.

Overseas, Sucker Punch grossed $7.4 million from 2,145 screens in 23 markets, putting its worldwide bow at $26.4 million.

Two possible problems for Sucker Punch going forward: Poor reviews and a B- CinemaScore, although Goldstein pointed out that younger moviegoers gave the movie an A-.

Among specialty openings, Julian Schnabel's Miral debuted to $65,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a so-so location average of $16,250. The Weinstein Co. is distributing the film.

Erik Lomis, the Weinstein  Co.'s newly installed president of distribution, Co., said the opening was softer than the company would have liked, particularly in Los Angeles. He said the film's expansion into an additional nine markets on April 1 should help.

The linchpin of the Weinstein Co.’s marketing campaign is the controversy Miral has generated for its sympathetic portrayal of the Palestinian cause. Some Jewish groups have spoken out against Miral, but Schnabel and Harvey Weinstein -- both of whom are Jewish -- say the film opens up a much-needed dialogue.

Miral has largely drawn negative reviews.

Back on the top 10 chart, holdovers Limitless and The Lincoln Lawyer both enjoyed strong holds in their second weekend, coming in No. 3 and No. 4 respectively.

Limitless, a win for Relativity Media's new distribution operation, fell 19% to an estimated $15.2 million for a cume of $41.3 million in its first 10 days.

Lionsgate's The Lincoln Lawyer fell 17% to an estimated $10.9 million for a cume of $28.8 million.

Paramount’s Rango crossed the $100 million mark over the weekend, as did Sony’s Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy Just Go With It. They are the first 2011 releases to clear $100 million.

Rango came in No. 5 for the weekend, falling 32% to an estimated $9.7 million for a cume of $106.3 million in fourth weekend.

Just Go With It, at the tail end of its domestic run, is the 12th Sandler film to gross north of $100 million.

Elsewhere, Focus Features' Jane Eyre continued to expand nicely, grossing $982,765 from 90 theaters for a cume of 1.9 million and location average of $10,919

Fox Searchlight's Win Win, directed by Tom McCarthy, also saw a successful expansion in its second weekend. The film grossed $470,000 from 23 theaters for a theater average of $20,470 and cume of $678,720. Win Win expands next weekend into an additional 12 markets, and will be playing in a total of 130-140 theaters.

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