Leave it to Russell Brand to steal all the attention.
"Hop," in which the comedian lends his voice to an animated bunny, is expected to top the box office for the second consecutive weekend with about $23 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. And of the weekend's four new wide releases, a remake of the 1981 comedy "Arthur," also starring Brand, should have the best opening, with a likely take of about $16 million.
It's unclear which of the remaining three films will perform best. Stoner comedy "Your Highness," inspirational drama "Soul Surfer" and action flick "Hanna" are each expected to sell $9 million to $13 million in tickets. With a fair number of children out on spring break, Universal's "Hop" should have a good enough hold to beat all of those films. The comedy, a mix of live action and animation, beat industry expectations last weekend when it opened to $37.5 million.
The original version of "Arthur," which earned lead actor Dudley Moore an Oscar nomination, proved to be a sleeper hit 30 years ago, when it made $95.5 million domestically. But, based on its so-far-largely-negative reviews and projections for a so-so opening, it seems unlikely that the new film about the booze-loving millionaire will end up grossing anywhere close to that amount. The film, financed and distributed by Warner Bros., cost about $40 million.
Brand has also yet to prove that he can open a movie on his own when he's not in cartoon form. "Get Him to the Greek," in which he played an over-the-top rock star, opened last summer to a decent $17.6 million and went on to gross $91.4 million worldwide. But Brand was not the marquee name in that movie, which also featured Jonah Hill.
This weekend's other comedy, the R-rated raunch fest "Your Highness," is generating interest mostly from young males. But it doesn't appear that enough of them will show up to make the movie a hit. Universal Pictures spent about $50 million to produce the movie, starring Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman.
"Your Highness" will also be released in two small foreign markets this weekend, Iceland and Romania.
The film was directed by David Gordon Green, a former darling of the independent-movie world whose biggest commercial success to date was another stoner comedy, "Pineapple Express." The 2008 release ultimately grossed $106.1 million worldwide.
"Soul Surfer," based on the real-life story of a teenage surfer who had her arm bitten off by a shark, aims to attract a young female audience. The movie, which is being distributed by Sony Pictures' TriStar label and marketed by the studio's faith-based division Affirm Films and FilmDistrict, was made for $18 million.
Because the movie has strong religious themes, much of the advertising campaign has been aimed at Christian audiences in conservative parts of the country, including the South. After the film's mainstream premiere in Los Angeles last week, the studio held a special screening for Christian media outlets in New York.
Older males and young females will probably be the main audience for "Hanna," which stars Saoirse Ronan as a teenage girl raised in the wilderness who is trained to be an assassin. The Focus Features release was directed by Joe Wright, best known for his work on period dramas such as "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice."
In limited release, Magnolia Pictures will open the wedding drama "Ceremony" in one theater in New York and another in Los Angeles. The movie, starring Uma Thurman and Michael Angarano, was released on video on demand in early March. Oscillosope Pictures will open the Michelle Williams period drama "Meek's Cutoff" in two theaters in New York. Anchor Bay's "Meet Monica Velour," starring Kim Cattrall of "Sex and the City," will bow in one theater in Los Angeles.