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'Dragon' makes weekend debut at No. 1

'Alice' slips to second place with $17.3 million

3D's rising star got another boost at the North American boxoffice this weekend as Paramount's release of DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon" flew to the top spot, and Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" held on to enough screens to emerge a solid number two.

Co-existing on the available 3D screens, "Dragon" bowed to an estimated $43.3 million, while "Alice," in its fourth weekend, lost 49% of its audience as it took in another $17.3 million, bringing its domestic total to a whopping $293 million.

MGM's "Hot Tub Time Machine," which relied on R-rated comedy instead of flashy effects, debuted more modestly as it collected $13.7 million.

Close behind was the second weekend of Sony's battling rom-com "The Bounty Hunter." The Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler teaming fell by just 40% as it brought in $12.4 million, bringing its domestic total to $38.8 million.

In fifth place, Fox's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," also in its second weekend, declining by 55%, brought home $10 million as its cume rose to $35.8 million.

While the weekend's top ten amassed $111.9 million, about on par with the $110.7 million that the top ten collected last weekend, this frame's top ten gross was down 18% from the top ten in the comparable weekend last year when DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters vs. Aliens" debuted to $59.3 million.

The "Dragon" launch did provide further evidence of the appeal of 3D. The movie bowed in 4,055 locations, but ticket sales from its 2,178 3D theaters, a number that raised prices this weekend, accounted for 68% of the movie's weekend gross. Imax alone -- "Dragon" is playing in 185 Imax theaters -- contributed 11.5% of the total, up from the 10.5% of gross that Imax theaters contributed to "Alice's" opening weekend. "That shows we're accumulating more fans, as we go along, who chose Imax as a venue," said Greg Foster, president of filmed entertainment at Imax, which will be hosting "Dragon" for six weeks until "Iron Man 2" comes along.

"Dragon" didn't explode out of the gate like "Monsters" last March. But with a Cinemascore of A, and 97% positive reviews on the RottenTomatoes Web site, it should play well over the spring holidays.

"It's a different competitive environment," said Anne Globe, DreamWorks head of worldwide marketing. "The demos were very evenly split, so the movie is playing broadly. The reviews have been tremendous. And we're anticipating very strong playability over the next few weeks. Exhibition is really committed to 'Dragon' and to DreamWorks Animation."

The movie's opening weekend audience bridged the age gap: 49% of moviegoers were under 25, and 51% older. And it skewed slightly more female by 55%.

"Hot Tub," meanwhile, played more to older (62% were over 25) males (58%). Its $13.7 million opening from 2,754 locations was on the lower end of expectations for the time-travel comedy, produced for about $35 million and starring John Cusack and Rob Corddry.

While Cinemascore's polling awarded it a B, MGM reported the movie received a definitive recommend of 85% from young males, so the embattled studio, which hasn't had a movie in the marketplace since last fall's "Fame," is hoping they spread the world.

Filling out the top ten, Paramount's teen comedy "She's Out of My League" ranked sixth with $3.5 million; Universal's Iraq-set "Green Zone" was seventh as it eked out $3.4 million; Paramount's "Shutter Island," with a cumulative domestic haul of $121 million, was eighth with $3.2 million; Universal's futuristic thriller "Repo Man" was ninth with $3 million; and Fox Searchlight's ethnic comedy "Our Family Wedding" was tenth with $2.2 million.

For the first time in its 15-week run, Fox's "Avatar" fell out of the top ten. Ranked eleventh, it rang up $2 million as its North American total amounted to more than $740 million.

On the specialty front, Focus' "Greenberg," Noah Baumbach's L.A.-set relationship study starring Ben Stiller, expanded into 181 theaters, where it grossed $1.1 million for a per-theater average of $5,850, bringing its cume to $1.2 million.

Sony Picture Classics first weekend of Atom Egoyan's R-rated marital thriller "Chloe," starring Liam Neeson with Amanda Seyfried in the title role, collected $1 million on 350 screens for a per-theater average of $2,863.

Apparition's "The Runaways," in its second weekend, had to settle for $446,000 in 237 theaters and a cume of $1.6 million.

Music Box's Scandanavian detective tale "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," also in its second weekend, showed more life as it took in $352,000 in 44 theaters for a cume of $840,000.

"Waking Sleeping Beauty," Disney's documentary about the studio's animation renaissance in the '80s, scored $33,100 in its opening engagements in five locations.