The animated feature film "Home" debuted at No. 1 with an estimated $54 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, giving Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation a much-needed victory at the box office over the Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart comedy "Get Hard."
DreamWorks Animation, which had turned out hits such as the "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar" movies, has struggled in the last year, with box-office misfires leading to a recent round of layoffs.
The studio took a $57-million write-down in 2014 for "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" and a $13.5-million charge on its summer movie "Turbo." The studio also recorded an $87-million write-down for "Rise of the Guardians" in 2012.
But "Home" was the third-largest non-sequel opening for DreamWorks Animation, following 2008's "Kung Fu Panda" ($60.2 million) and 2009's "Monsters vs. Aliens" ($59.3 million).
"DreamWorks Animation has kept stepping up to the plate," said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox, which released the film. " 'Home' is not just a hit -- it's a home run."
The film, which cost a hefty $130 million to make, follows a teenage girl, Tip, who meets and befriends an alien fugitive, Boov. The two set off on a quest to find Tip's mother. The film's voice cast includes Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin.
Reviews have been fairly strong, with moviegoers giving it a solid A grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore. Parents gave it five out of five stars.
For the Record:
March 30, 8:13 a.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported CinemaScore grades. "Home" received an A, not an A-minus, and "Get Hard" received a B, not a B-minus.
As expected, the audience for the PG-rated film was young; 57% were younger than 25. An estimated 15% of K-12 schools were out for spring break this weekend, according to research firm Rentrak. About 60% of the audience for "Home" was female. About 48% was non-Latino white, 22% was African American, 15% was Latino and 15% was other.
In second place, "Get Hard" met tracking expectations with a solid $34.6-million debut. The R-rated film, released by Warner Bros., follows an uptight man (Ferrell) who is sentenced to prison for financial crimes and seeks help preparing for life behind bars from someone he wrongfully assumes has served time (Hart).
"Overall it was an excellent opening for us, and there's not a comedy in the marketplace for a while, so we should have a nice run through the spring break," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution, who cited the chemistry between the two stars.
The movie had a tense premiere at the South by Southwest film festival this month in Austin, Texas, after one audience member told director Etan Cohen that he found the film racist -- a sentiment some critics have shared.
Moviegoers gave the film a B CinemaScore grade. The film marks the largest R-rated opening for Hart and Ferrell.
Hart has been a consistent force at the box office in the last year, starring in "Think Like a Man Too," "About Last Night" and "Ride Along." His latest comedy, "The Wedding Ringer," launched with a solid $20.6 million in the U.S. and Canada in January. It has made $64.2 million domestically to date.
Ferrell hadn't been on the big screen since December 2013, when "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" debuted to $26.2 million. That film went on to pull in $127.4 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Last weekend's top film, "The Divergent Series: Insurgent," fell to third, adding $22.1 million to its domestic box-office haul, down 58% from last weekend. To date the dystopian teen film based on the books by Veronica Roth has made $86.4 million.
Disney's live-action "Cinderella" came in fourth in its third weekend, adding about $17.5 million to its domestic haul of $150 million. To date the film has pulled in $336.2 million at the global box office.
Rounding out the top five, indie horror film "It Follows" made about $4 million after expanding to about 1,200 theaters.
The movie, from Weinstein Co.'s Radius-TWC label and Dimension Films, has received favorable word of mouth from audiences and a 94% positive rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Radius, which acquired the film at Cannes last year, delayed the traditional video-on-demand release strategy to do a "more traditional theatrical release framework," said Tom Quinn, Radius' co-president.
"We wanted it to be a nimble plan that was versatile, that wasn't a one-size-fits-all approach to distribution," he said. "I'm glad the result this weekend proves it was a worthy strategy. It's a highly deserving film and we're all really happy with the result."
"It Follows" will roll out in more theaters next weekend.
In limited release, "While We're Young" launched with $242,152 in just four theaters, for a high per-screen average of $60,538. The Noah Baumbach film, from A24, follows Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), a childless, middle-aged couple living in Brooklyn. The film earned an 83% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Also in limited release, the R-rated drama "Serena" did not fare as well, pulling in $110,000 on 60 screens. The Magnolia Pictures film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
Despite the annual NCAA basketball tournament on TV, audiences still made their way to theaters in masses. If studio estimates hold up, the box office will be up about 8% from the same weekend a year ago when "Noah" made its $43.7 million debut. For the year to date, the box office is estimated to be up 4%.
April could give movie-ticket sales a further boost with the opening of Universal's highly anticipated "Furious 7." The latest film in the "Fast & Furious" franchise is likely to set records, with fans expected to turn out to pay tribute to its star, the late Paul Walker.