After a pitiful first quarter, the box office rebounded to record levels in April. Tallying $791 million, April 2011 was the top-grossing April ever and was up five percent from April 2010. With an estimated 101 million tickets sold, April 2011 was also the third highest-attended April on record, behind 2006 and 2004.
For the first time since 1984, box office was greater in April than its preceding months, which is noteworthy because April generally sees lower grosses than January, February and March. Business increased nearly 16 percent from March, which was the widest margin that an April has out-grossed a March since 1988.
Quietly, a batch of consistent performers propelled April 2011 to solid returns, and then two days of Fast Five pushed it over the top. Fast Five was unleashed on April 29 and notched $64.3 million through April 30, ranking as the third highest-grossing movie of the month. Otherwise, April 2011's total would have fallen behind April 2010's $752.6 million.
Hop, which played every day of April, was the month's top-grossing title at $104.7 million, followed by Rio at $99.5 million. Source Code ($48.3 million) and Insidious ($47.8 million) rounded out the Top Five. For the first time on record, no holdover from a previous month made it into April 2011's Top Ten. Limitless was the most prominent holdover, ranking 12th with $29.6 million.
April 2011 also reached its box office heights largely without the aid of 3D. While April 2010 was dominated by the 3D releases of How to Train Your Dragon, Clash of the Titans (2010) and others, Rio was the only major 3D release of this past April and there were no significant 3D holdovers.
The bustling April comes after a January-February-March period that was the lowest-grossing since 2006 and that suffered the steepest year-to-year drop in decades (down nearly 21 percent). More distressingly, it was the least-attended first quarter since 1995. The beginning of the year is usually bolstered by holdovers from the previous year, but December was so dismal that it put 2011 at a disadvantage. January had an anemic slate, and February and March weren't much better.
Add in April, and the first four months of 2011 tallied nearly $2.9 billion. While that was a higher gross than 2008 and all previous years through the same point, it was off 15 percent from 2010 and nearly eight percent from 2009. Despite April's strength, 2011's attendance was still dreadful for the January-through-April period, coming in at just over 367 million, the lowest sum since 1995.