Universal Hops Away With Victory
By John Hamann
April 3, 2011
Three new films hit theaters this weekend, and with Spring Break still on for some, not to mention the approach of Easter, Universal's Hop dominated the box office. While some will tell you Hop broke out this weekend, I would disagree – it did fill a vast hole, delivering a cute animated kids film, which Rango did not. The other two new releases opened close to each other and were targeting similar audiences, but were very different films. Summit's Source Code struggled somewhat despite very solid reviews, and despite finishing third, FilmDistrict's Insidious did quite well. Last weekend's openers were literally flushed, leaving room for new films to dominate.
Our number one film of the weekend is Hop, Universal's animated follow up to the super-successful Despicable Me. Hop, about an Easter Bunny in training, got off to a very strong start on Friday, earning $11.4 million – a few hundred thousand more than How to Train Your Dragon started with a year ago. Hop continued its strong pace over the weekend, pulling in $38.1 million from 3,577 venues, and carrying a venue average of $10,651. Hop finished the weekend with a weekend multiplier (Friday gross divided by weekend gross) of 3.3 – healthy considering the season, Spring Break, and the target demographic. The leggy How to Train Your Dragon had a solid opening weekend multiplier of 3.61, after opening March 26, 2010. Dragon went on to have an open to total multiplier of almost 5.0 – a figure Hop likely has no chance of, but I've been wrong before.
You see, Hop isn't a very good movie, whereas How to Train Your Dragon is the complete opposite, as it holds a valued place in my Blu-ray collection. Dragon was a stellar 98% fresh Rotten Tomatoes, and was one of those films that made an impact despite the viewer's age. Hop feels different, aimed at just the very young, while adults would only find it momentarily cute. Hop was only 23% fresh at RottenTomatoes – an awful score for a kids film – as there was only 20 fresh reviews out of a possible 87. However, before we throw this one completely out the window, Hop was directed by Tim Hill, who also put together the brain dead Alvin and the Chipmunks movie (the first one, not the squeakq... second one). Alvin was a similar 27% fresh, but managed to equal How to Train Your Dragon's open-to-total multiplier (albeit over the Christmas moviegoing season). The lesson is that these things are impossible to predict based on reviews alone – especially with kids films.
Universal and Relativity Media paid $63 million for Hop, which was made by Illumination Entertainment, the group behind last summer's Despicable Me. That film surprised in July 2010, opening to $56.4 million. It went on to earn $251 million domestically, and another $291 million overseas. Universal spent a similar amount on Despicable Me - $69 million – and obviously made a mint. While Hop won't do the same kind of business, it does have two weekends of play before Easter, then Easter weekend will be its fourth frame. This will be an interesting film to watch to due to the holiday play – can it hold long enough to have a strong Easter weekend? Do general audiences even see this as an Easter film? Hop has the schedule to itself next weekend, but the frame after that brings Rio, the new animated film from the folks that brought you Ice Age. Regardless of reviews and schedule, Hop is going to be another successful animated entry for Universal. They are working with Illumination Entertainment again next year on Dr. Seuss's The Lorax, which will open in March 2012.