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Weekend Report: 'Dragons' Dominate by Default

by Brandon Gray
How to Train Your Dragon
 

 
April 26, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon continued to do its thing over the weekend, and that was all it needed to return to the top spot. New releases The Back-Up Plan, The Losers and Oceans generated little interest, while Dragon's photo finish rival from last weekend, Kick-Ass, conked out. Overall business suffered as a result: it was by far the lowest-grossing weekend of 2010 and was down 12 percent from the same timeframe last year when Obsessed grabbed first place.

Easing 22 percent to $15.4 million, How to Train Your Dragon again saw the smallest dip among nationwide releases, though it was actually steeper than its previous two weekends. Its total climbed to $178.3 million in 31 days, handily eclipsing Monsters Vs. Aliens through the same point. Dragon and Monsters had pretty much the same Spring release pattern and Monsters had a much bigger start, but Dragon ultimately resonated better with audiences. At its current pace, Dragon will vie with Kung Fu Panda to become DreamWorks Animation's highest-grossing non-Shrek movie.

While some movies take time to reach No. 1 (The Blind Side was the last example), it's even rarer for a movie to start at No. 1 and then regain the top spot later on. The last time this occurred was at the end of 2005, when The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe reclaimed the lead over King Kong on New Year's weekend. The other instances from this millennium were The Passion of the Christ in 2004, Finding Nemo in 2003 and Signs in 2002. For a picture to return to the top spot or rise up to it, it has to hold well, but, more importantly, the new movies have to be weak and the other movies have to decline faster. That was certainly the case with How to Train Your Dragon this weekend.

Few donated to Jennifer Lopez's Back-Up Plan, which extracted $12.2 million out of approximately 3,600 screens at 3,280 theaters. That was less than Baby Mama's $17.4 million at 2,543 sites on this weekend in 2008, and the movie's attendance was lower than past pregnancy comedies like Nine Months and Fools Rush In. The Back-Up Plan was also a new comedy low for Ms. Lopez, who was coming off of a five-year hiatus from mainstream movies.

Mining a previously successful genre was a proper move for Jennifer Lopez to rebuild her rapport with audiences, but The Back-Up Plan's premise of a woman getting artificially inseminated only to meet the man of her dreams right after the fact and then going through with that pregnancy wasn't exactly savory romantic comedy fodder. However, in light of recent limited release flops about getting pregnant and motherhood like Miss Conception and Motherhood, one could spin Back-Up Plan as having fared decently. Distributor CBS Films' exit polling indicated that 71 percent of the audience was female, 57 percent was over 30 years old and 21 percent was Latino.

Jennifer Lopez in The Back-Up Plan
In terms of attendance, The Back-Up Plan may have been the weekend's No. 1 draw. That's because 67 percent of How to Train Your Dragon's weekend gross came from 3D showings, which carry a significant ticket price premium over regular showings. Specifically, 56 percent was from normal 3D, while 11 percent was from the even pricier IMAX 3D. Dragon's estimated attendance would likely rank it second for the weekend.

True to its title, The Losers bagged $9.4 million on around 3,300 screens at 2,936 sites, despite a fairly aggressive marketing push by distributor Warner Bros. Ads promised colorful action comedy hijinks, but the proceedings were too generic to inspire many to pursue the movie theatrically, and the off-putting title didn't help. The opening was far less than similar titles like Shooter, Smokin' Aces, Swordfish and The Big Hit. According to Warner Bros.' research, 60 percent of the audience was male and 64 percent was under 35 years old.

In eighth place, Disneynature's Oceans was more like a pond with $6.1 million start at 1,206 locations, but that was the third highest-grossing documentary debut ever behind Fahrenheit 9/11 and the inaugural Disneynature release, Earth (2009). Earth logged $8.8 million on the same weekend last year, and Oceans also couldn't compare to Earth's mid-week launch. Oceans' marketing didn't offer enough difference from Earth, and it's difficult to recreate a past success: an extreme example is how hard Arctic Tale tried to be the next March of the Penguins and failed miserably. Next up for Disneynature is African Cats on the same weekend in 2011.

Last weekend's high profile release, Kick-Ass, again failed to live up to the hyperbole, despite a new ad campaign proclaiming it the No. 1 movie (which was true for the weekdays, but likely false for last weekend). Instead, it behaved like a run-of-the-mill superhero or comic book movie with its 53 percent fall, grossing $9.3 million. With $34.7 million in ten days, ads can reasonably declare it the highest-grossing live-action superhero comedy on record, but, for all of the movie's supposed buzz, Superhero Movie and Zombieland both held up much better in their second weekends.

Among other holdovers, Date Night hung in there with $10.5 million, down 37 percent, bringing its total to $63.3 million in 17 days. Clash of the Titans (2010) held about as well as 300 at the same point with $8.9 million, lifting its total to $145.6 million in 24 days (but still lags far behind 300). Death at a Funeral (2010) had a standard slip in its second weekend, off 51 percent to $8 million for a $28.5 million total.

Related Stories
Limited Release Report: 'Dragon Tattoo' Best of Weak Bunch Again
Weekend Preview: 'The Losers,' 'The Back-Up Plan,' 'Oceans'
Bankability Breakdown: Jennifer Lopez
This Weekend in Box Office History

Last Weekend
'Kick-Ass' Opens Up a Can of Weak Sauce

This Timeframe in Past Years:
2009 - Moviegoers Fixate on 'Obsessed'
2008 - 'Baby Mama,' 'Harold & Kumar' Yuk It Up
2007 - 'Disturbia' Thrills More Than 'Fracture,' 'Vacancy'
2006 - Solid 'Silent Hill,' So-so 'Sentinel,' Shattered 'American Dreamz'
2005 - 'Interpreter' Intrigues Nation

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