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How 'Rio' Become 2011's Top Release

Rio
Twentieth Century Fox

In North America, "Rio" wins Easter weekend, while Tyler Perry's "Madea" and "Water for Elephants," starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz, are off to good starts.

Twentieth Century Fox’s 3D toon Rio has become the top grossing 2011 release, ending Easter weekend with a new worldwide cume of $286 million. That easily bests Paramount’s Rango, which has earned just under $240 million globally.

Rio topped the box office chart both domestically and internationally for the weekend in a big win for Fox. In North America, the 3D toon grossed an estimated $26.8 million from 3,842 theaters in its second weekend for a cume of $81.3 million.

Overseas, Rio -- voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway -- grossed an estimated $44 million for a new international cume of $204.7 million. Rio opened two weeks ago internationally, a week ahead of its domestic bow on April 15.

Rio’s performance is helping to restore confidence in the domestic box office, which has been suffering the worst slump in years. Easter weekend was up a whopping 38% from a year ago (a non-holiday weekend), helping to narrow the year-over-year decline in box office revenues from 20% to 18%.

Coming in No. 2 domestically over Easter weekend was the latest offering from Tyler Perry, Madea’s Big Happy Family. The Lionsgate movie scored a solid $25.8 million from 2,288 locations in its debut, and drew a pleasing A CinemaScore.

Big Happy Family posted a per screen average of $11,255, the best of any wide release, and pointing to Perry's core fanbase among African-Americans, who made up 81% of the audience. The film played great in urban markets including New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, as well as in the South, such as Atlanta.

"Tyler Perry has such a loyal following," Lionsgate president of theatrical distribution David Spitz said. 

Overperforming in its opening was Fox 2000’s period circus romance Water for Elephants, which debuted to $17.5 million from 2,817 locations. Based on Sara Gruen’s bestselling book and directed by Francis Lawrence, the film stars Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz.

Water for Elephants drew an A- CinemaScore, and played heavily to adult women. Females made up 70% of the audience, while 70% were over the age of 25. The film’s successful opening is a win for Fox’s marketing team, which targeted fans of the book, as well as playing up the love story.

"It is a great number for an adult film. When a movie shows emotion, that's what draws you in," Fox senior  vice president of domestic distribution Bert Livingston said. "This really overperformed, and will have great legs."

Placing No. 4 was Universal’s Easter bunny hit Hop. The CGI/live-action pic jumped the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, grossing an estimated $12.5 million for a new cume of $100.5 million. Overseas, Hop hasn’t had the same appeal, but has still grossed a solid $47.2 million for a worldwide total of $147.7 million.

Dimension Films’ Scream 4 came in No. 5 at the domestic box office, grossing an estimated $7.2 million in its second weekend for a cume of $31.2 million. The movie fell 62%, an acceptable decline for a horror pic.


Disneynature’s latest Earth Day documentary African Cats came in No. 6, grossing an estimated $6.4 million from 1,220 locations. African Cats also played well, drawing an A- CinemaScore.

A trio of strong holdovers took the next three spots on the box office chart. TriStar and FilmDistrict’s Bethany Hamilton biopic Soul Surfer, playing to young women and faith-based audiences, grossed an estimated $5.6 million for a cume of $28.7 million in its third weekend.

FilmDistrict’s micro-budgeted Insidious followed with an estimated gross of $5.4 million. The sleeper hit finished its fourth weekend with a cume of $44.2 million.

Smart thriller Hanna, from Focus Features and directed by Joe Wright, grossed an estimated $5.3 million in its third weekend for a cume of $31.7 million.

Among more limited offerings, Roadside Attractions' The Conspirator, directed by Robert Redford, fell 35% in its second weekend to come in No. 13, grossing an estimated $2.3 million from 849 theaters for a cume of $6.9 million.

The Metropolitan Opera's The Met: Live in HD continued to score top results, with Saturday's live broadcast of Richard Strauss' Capriccio grossing $2.1 million from 759 screens in North America. Overseas, 45,000 people watched the broadcast, which played on 300 screens in Europe and Latin America.

In the U.S., Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold got off to a soft startt, grossing an estimated $135,135 from 18 theaters in a handful of top markets for Sony Pictures Classics. The pic’s per theater average was $7,506. 

Sony Classics scored the best theater average of the weekend with foreign film Incendies, which grossed an estimated $54,582 from three theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $18,195.

Focus Features’ Jane Eyre approached $8 million over the weekend, ending the frame with a new cume of $7.7 million.