Easter Weekend Gives Life to Rio, Box Office
By John Hamann
April 24, 2011
The Easter weekend at the North American box office has (hopefully) given us a sign of what's to come: improved business at movie theaters. After almost five months of suck, the long weekend provided something we haven't seen this year, a couple of surprises at the box office. New films this weekend included another Tyler Perry comedy, this one with Madea in the title (which usually means big business); Water for Elephants, with the Twilight guy and Reese Witherspoon, who has always been able to pull a rabbit out of her hat; and African Cats, a Disney nature doc, just in time to cash in on Earth Day. With the kids out of school, holdovers were just as important this weekend, as Rio tried to repeat last weekend's victory, and Hop tried to dominate Easter.
Like the many frames before it this year, I thought we might be in for a rough long weekend in terms of movie box office. Water for Elephants did not look like a winner in my eyes – a depression-era drama about a circus performer did not pull at my inner-fanboy. Madea's Big Happy Family does not sound like a typical Tyler Perry outing, as usually his titles are a little more downbeat (Madea Goes to Jail, I Can Do Bad All By Myself), and at some point, even the Madea franchise will fade. Rio failed to open above $40 million last weekend (it was estimated at $40 million but actuals had it at $39.2 million; I was expecting Scream 4 to have the fudged estimate, not Rio), and Hop lost 50% of its audience. We seemed to be moving into those late April doldrums, as moviegoers wait for the blockbuster summer films. Last year, the combined top 12 films earned $100 million every weekend up until the last two weekends in April. The long weekend saved us this frame, as Friday provided some ridiculously high numbers, and not just for kids' films.
Our number one film of the weekend is a bit of surprise, as Madea failed to reach top spot, and instead it goes to the kids and Rio. The 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios release had an excellent Friday (a Good one even), as it took in more on its second Friday than it did over its first. Rio turned a $10.9 million Friday into a $26.8 million weekend, repeating on top for a second frame. Tracking was completely off for Rio, as surveys had it doing only $20 million this weekend. Out to a huge 3,842 venues, the colorful animated entry had a strong venue average of $6,976. It dipped 32% from its $39.2 million opening, and virtually guaranteed itself at least $100 million in North American receipts, not to mention the fact that it is already dominating the overseas marketplace with almost $150 million earned so far. Rio cost Fox and Blue Sky $90 million to make, and will be a decent-sized winner at movie theaters. So far, Blu and friends have earned a very solid $81.3 million.