Family audiences flocked to the live-action/animated hybrid "Hop" this weekend. The film, which features the voice of comedian Russell Brand as the teenage son of the Easter Bunny, grossed $38.1 million in ticket sales, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures.
However, even though the film's strong opening — the best debut for any movie released this year — far exceeded earlier industry projections, the box office was down a staggering 30% compared to the same weekend last year, when "Clash of the Titans" premiered Easter weekend to $61.2 million.
"Hop's" debut didn't come close to matching last year's blockbuster record, and neither did the openings of the two other new films debuting in wide release: "Source Code," a sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, opened to $15.1 million, while "Insidious," a horror film starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, collected $13.5 million.
Meanwhile, Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch," in its second weekend of release, had a poor holdover — plummeting 68% after its soft opening to gross only $6.1 million. That's the biggest second-weekend drop of any movie this year. In 2009, Snyder's "Watchmen" also dropped 68%, an indication that the majority of the auteur's fanboy audience typically rushes out to see his films on their opening weekends.
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules," based on a series of popular children's novels and last weekend's No. 1 film, fell 57% and came in fourth with $10.2 million.
"Hop" was financed by Universal Pictures and Relativity Media for around $63 million. Not surprisingly, 75% of the audience that came to see the film was kids 12 and under with their families, and they liked the movie, giving it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures, attributed much of the film's successful opening weekend to promotional partnerships with NBCUniversal and Comcast and licensing deals with such brands as Walmart and Kodak.
"If you were watching the Golf Channel, running across the bottom of the screen, you'd see a 'Hop' blurb," Rocco said. "We had a fantastic, broad campaign. It's very hard to get attention, and our partners were there to support us."
"Hop" was made by producer Chris Meledandri's movie company Illumination Entertainment, which in July released the animated hit "Despicable Me." That film did even better than "Hop," opening to $56.4 million; it went on to collect $251.5 million domestically and an additional $276.5 million overseas.
While the movie was able to fend off competition from "Wimpy Kid" and Paramount's "Rango" this weekend, it will face stiff competition in two weeks when the 3-D animated family film "Rio" hits theaters.
Overseas, "Hop" opened in 26 foreign markets, where the movie collected a less impressive $7 million. It was the No. 1 film to premiere in Britain and also debuted in big markets such as Germany and Italy. The movie will launch in five new markets, including Australia and Israel, next weekend.
"Source Code," meanwhile, went into the weekend with excellent critical reviews — the movie has an 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences who saw the film didn't love it as much as critics but still gave it a decent average B grade. Men and women came to see the movie in nearly equal proportion, though it was mostly an older audience — 76% of whom were ages 18 to 49.
The movie, which is about a soldier forced into a secret military program through which he relives the last eight minutes of another man's life, was the first film financed by French producer Philippe Rousselet's company Vendome Pictures, for $32 million after tax credits.
It opened this weekend in seven foreign markets, grossing a solid $5.6 million and performing best in Britain. Next weekend, the film will debut in 12 additional markets, including Brazil and Turkey.
"Insidious," produced by the makers of "Paranormal Activity," Oren Peli and Jason Blum, cost much less to make than either of the other new releases out this weekend. It had a budget of only around $1.5 million, making the movie an immediate hit.
The film, which has already earned money from international presales, was the first release from FilmDistrict, the company formed by producer Graham King in September.
"The great thing for the company is that this shows exhibitors we're delivering on what we promised — wide-release films with big advertising support," said Bob Berney, FilmDistrict's president of theatrical distribution. "To have something click right away as a new player is wonderful."
The film attracted both young men and women, who gave it a B grade. It likely will open in its first foreign market, the United Kingdom, in a month.