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Weekend Wrap-Up

Rio, Scream 4 Fail to Ignite Box Office

By John Hamann

April 17, 2011

How about some Fruit Loops?

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Two contenders actually showed up at the box office this weekend in the form of Rio and Scream 4 (despite it being mid-April), raising the stakes on the box office mediocrity we've seen over these last months. Unfortunately, despite the more colorful contenders, it's the same old same old at the box office, as the new meat comes off as under-cooked. Openers included Fox and Blue Sky Animation's Rio, the gorgeous-looking 3D-animated musical extravaganza, and the slightly dusty Scream 4, as Wes Craven begs audiences for a return to relevance. Did audiences care? Are you kidding me?

This is now considered the 15th movie-going weekend of 2011, and we are yet to have a film open higher than $40 million. A year ago, films like Alice in Wonderland ($116 million opening), Clash of the Titans ($61.2 million opening), Valentine's Day ($56.3 million opening), Shutter Island ($41 million opening) and How To Train Your Dragon ($43.7 million opening) had already debuted higher than $40 million, and Avatar had eviscerated four weekends in January. This year is just a sad in comparison. The highest opener had been Rango, which debuted to $38.1 million in early March, followed close behind by Hop, which took in $37 million over its opening frame. Last year's big, early hitters were films aimed at adults (Alice in Wonderland doesn't open to $116 million without ALL audiences showing up in large numbers); this year, more are aimed at kids. Would that mean Rio would break the seemingly insurmountable $40 million plateau? It did, but only just.




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Our number one film of the weekend is Rio, Blue Sky Studio's latest attempt at repeating their very large Ice Age success, and hopefully launching a new franchise. However, this is 2011, so breakout non-success was almost guaranteed. Rio earned an okay $40 million from 3,826 venues, giving it a venue average of $10,455. The easiest comparison here is Ice Age, the first in the very successful franchise that is still producing films, nine years after the original debuted (the fourth, Continental Drift, will open in the summer of 2012). Ice Age opened to $46 million in 2002, but it should be noted that Ice Age had one of the most clever trailers ever. Rio did not, and additionally seemed to be targeted at a much younger audience than that original Ice Age, which was aimed much wider. Rio repeats the success of Hop and Rango, and the unfortunate realization is setting in that the only good, successful films this year have been aimed at the Romper Room set, without much of a nod at all to the older moviegoer.

Rio is good. It does have that going for it, where something like Hop does not. It also has a shot at a growing international audience, as it is set in Brazil, and not Arkansas. Rio is going to need those international grosses, as this one cost $90 million to produce, and wasn't exactly slack in the marketing department either. Given additional costs for prints, advertising, and portion the theatre takes, the 20th Century Fox product would likely need to earn more than $200 million worldwide. The good news is that Rio is already a big hit overseas, taking in more than $80 million already (Rio opened in a few international markets last weekend to take advantage of European holidays). Rio is also a critical success – not to the Rango degree (89% fresh), but still strong at 71% fresh. The only animated kid product between now and Kung Fu Panda 2 (which debuts May 27) is Hoodwinked Too!, so get ready for some default legs on Rio.


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