'Rio' Helps Break U.S. Box Office Slump With $40 Million Opening

Twentieth Century Fox’s Rio outperformed expectations in its domestic launch, grossing an estimated $40 million from 3,826 theaters to help break the long-running box office slump. Worldwide, the 3D toon has soared past $169 million in its first 12 days.

Domestic box office revenues were up 12% from the same weekend a year ago, the first significant gain since before Christmas. With studios readying their summer slates, the boost couldn’t have come at a better time.

Rio, a sizeable victory for Vanessa Morrison’s Fox Animation Studios and Blue Sky Studios, received an A CinemaScore and is the biggest domestic opening for a G-rated toon since Toy Story 3. On Saturday, Rio was up 65%, thanks to good word of mouth. The movie is poised to do great midweek business, since kids are out of school for spring break.

With a voice cast led by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, Rio was directed by Carlos Saldanha.

Overseas, Rio grossed an estimated $53.9 million in its second weekend as it expanded into additional markets for a foreign cume of $129.1 million. As in the U.S., kids in Europe also are out of school for spring break. The toon is already the No. 6 film of the year worldwide, and also scored the biggest international bow of the year last weekend.

“We got everybody. It’s working in every country on the planet,” Fox senior vice president of distribution Bert Livingston said. “It’s great to get people back in the movie-going habit.”

Rio cost a reasonable $90 million to produce.

Aiding the weekend’s box office revenue spike was Dimension Films’ R-rated Scream 4, which grossed an estimated $19.2 million from 3,305 theaters. While Dimension was hoping for an opening in the mid-$20 million range, Scream 4 still enjoyed a solid start, coming in No. 2 for the weekend.

Wes Craven, who directed the first three films in the Scream franchise, returned to direct Scream 4. Also returning were stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox. Joining the series as a way to draw younger moviegoers were Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettire.

Erik Lomis, president of theatrical distribution for the Weinstein Co., said Scream 4 succeeded in playing to younger moviegoers, with a majority of the audience under 25. The horror pic skewed slightly female. He’s also hoping for good midweek business in the coming days because of older teenagers and college kids being out of school.

The third new film of the frame, Roadside Attractions’ historical drama The Conspirator, from director Robert Redford and going out in only 706 locations, performed as hoped for in grossing $3.9 million--the top opening gross ever for Roadside.

Starring Robin Wright and James McAvoy, The Conspirator came in No. 10. A vast majority of those going to see the film were over the age of 40.

“We are very pleased with The Conspirator opening. Grosses went up 44% Friday-to-Saturday, indicating good word of mouth, and we had reports of sellouts, especially matinees, across the country. We successfully motivated our heavily 35+ audience to come out opening weekend, not always easy to do,” Roadside co-president Howard Cohen said.

Redford’s film was financed by Joe Ricketts’ The American Film Company, dedicated to making historical films. Ricketts is the founder of Ameritrade.

Higher up on the box office chart, Universal’s successful family film Hop lost traffic to Rio, as expected. Hop fell 48% in its third weekend to an estimated $11.1 million for a cume of $82.5 million. Hop placed No. 3.

A trio of pics continued to do well -- TriStar/FilmDistrict’s Soul Surfer, Focus Features’ smart thriller Hanna and FilmDistrict’s micro-budgeted horror film Insidious.

Soul Surfer grossed an estimated $7.4 million from 2,214 locations for a cume of $20 million in its first 10 days to come in No. 4. The Bethany Hamilton biopic fell only 30%.

Directed by Joe Wright, Hanna fell 41% to an estimated $7.3 million for a cume of $23.3 million in its first 10 days.

Hanna -- which had a 50% jump on Saturday, indicating the film is widening its reach -- could switch places with Soul Surfer, also a standout, if Sunday business is strong. Last weekend, Hanna moved up the chart to No. 2 when final box office numbers were tallied.

From Paranormal Activity producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli, sleeper hit Insidious fell only 27% in its third weekend, grossing $6.9 million for a stellar cume of $36 million. FilmDistrict president of theatrical distribution Bob Berney noted the film’s strength, even with competition from Scream 4.

Warner Bros.’ Arthur continued to disappoint in its second weekend, tying with Insidious at $6.9 million. The comedy’s cume is $22.3 million its first 10 days.

Univeral’s R-rated comedy Your Highness fell badly in its second weekend, declining 57% to an estimated $4.1 million from 2,772 locations for a cume of $16.1 million.

Among special openings, Rocky Mountain Pictures’ Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 grossed $1.7 million from 299 locations for a screen count of $5,608.

Peter Oberth
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