'Hop' Beats 'Arthur' at Weekend Box Office

 Warner Bros.

The biggest box office headline of the weekend was overseas, where 20th Century Fox’s toon Rio opened to $55 million to score the top debut of 2011 for any title anywhere. In the U.S., Russell Brand’s new comedy Arthur lost badly to holdover family film Hop -- which the British actor voices - -and, in a last-minute upset, lost to Focus Features' Hanna as well.

If Rio maintains its momentum when opening domestically April 15, it will be an important psychological win for the movie industry, which has been weathering the worst box office slump in years. The biggest three-day opening so far this year internationally was a tepid $28.7 million for Battle: Los Angeles; domestically, it was $38.1 million for Rango.

“This is a fantastic start for a new franchise. With consistently stellar reviews and excellent word-of-mouth around the world -- as well as no significant family competition ahead -- we are well established to take advantage of the school holidays which begin in the coming weeks, including this week in the U.K. and Australia,” Fox International co-presidents Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus said.

In the U.S., family fare also dominated as Universal’s Hop stayed at No. 1 in its second weekend, grossing an estimated $21.7 million from 3,616 locations for a solid domestic cume of $68.2 million.

Warner Bros.’ Arthur -- a remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore classic -- grossed only $12.2 million from 3,276 theaters, even less than the $12.6 million estimated on Sunday, which had put Arthur slightly ahead of Hanna. If there's a saving grace, it's that the comedy cost a reasonable $40 million to produce.

Arthur, also starring Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner and Greta Gerwig, was likely hurt by poor reviews, although it earned a solid B CinemaScore. Nearly 65% of the audience was over the age of 25, while 56% were female.

Warner president of distribution Dan Fellman said moviegoers under the age of 18 gave the film an A-. He said the studio will tweak its marketing campaign to target younger consumers.

Focus' smart action-thriller Hanna overperformed in grossing $12.4 million from 2,535 theaters to come in No. 2 by the time final numbers were reported Monday morning. Directed by Joe Wright in his third film for Focus, Hanna stars Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana.

Hanna cost less than $40 million to produce, with much of the production budget financed through foreign presales (Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions picked up rights to a number of major territories).

“To come in No. 3 was a triumph,” Focus president of distribution Jack Foley said. "Joe Wright is now a serious genre filmmaker.”

Hanna played well from cities to small towns, and drew an ethnically diverse audience. It skewed slightly male (53%), while the majority of the audience was over 25. However, Hanna drew a C+ CinemaScore (Rango also did, and it hasn’t hurt that film).

In a second win for Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney’s new FilmDistrict, Bethany Hamilton biopic Soul Surfer also did better than expected, grossing an estimated $11.1 million from 2,214 locations to come in No. 4, thanks to teen girls and their moms, as well as faith-based audiences.

Soul Surfer, distributed by Sony’s TriStar and marketed by FilmDistrict, drew a rare A+ CinemaScore. In another good sign, 56% of the audience was under the age of 25 -- a demo that’s been missing from the multiplex -- while 80% of those buying tickets were female.

“There’s a lot of love for this film,” Sony president of distribution Rory Bruer said.

Soul Surfer stars AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid and features Carrie Underwood in her film debut.

It was a good weekend for Schlessel and Berney, along with FilmDistrict marketing chief Jeanne Berney. The company’s micro-budgeted horror pic Insidious stayed high up on the box office chart in its second weekend, falling only 27% to an estimated $9.7 million from 2,419 locations for a cume of $27 million in its first 10 days.

From Paranormal Activity producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli, Insidious cost under $1.5 million to produce.

Insidious placed No. 5, beating Universal’s new R-rated comedy Your Highness, which opened to a disappointing $9.5 million from 2,769 theaters.

From the outset, Universal said the film -- directed by David Gordon Green and starring Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel -- was for a limited audience (young males). Your Highness, costing $49.9 million to produce after foreign rebates, came in No. 6.

Summit Entertainment’s Source Code fell 39% in its second weekend to place No. 7, grossing an estimated $9.1 million from 2,791 theaters for a cume of $28.6 million.

Rounding out the top 10 was Lionsgate’s The Lincoln Lawyer, which continued to hold well, declining 33% to an estimated $4.6 million fro a cume of $46.5 million.

Among limited offerings, the Metropolitan Opera’s The Met: Live in HD did well enough to come in No. 12 for the weekend. Saturday’s live broadcast of Rossini’s new production Le Comte Ory grossed $2.2 million from 450 locations in the U.S. Another 80,000 saw the broadcast overseas in 450 locations in 26 countries.

Warners Bros.’ new educational/nature documentary Born to Be Wild 3D, from Drew Fellman, grossed an impressive $850,000 from its exclusive run in 206 Imax theaters. Many of the screens were institutional locations, such as museums.

While Hop continued to rule the domestic box office, overseas was a different story, where the CGI/live-action pic hasn’t caught on, cuming $15.1 million its first 10 days. That puts the movie’s worldwide cume at $83.3 million.

Rio had a far bigger footprint than Hop this weekend, but handily beat Hop in several major markets where both played, including Australia.

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