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Weekend Preview: Studios Look to Start Summer Early

April 14th, 2011

While 2011 has been a year to forget, we could see that turn around this weekend with two potentially massive hits, at least compared to the average April release. Historically, April has the fewest $100 million hits over the past several years, but this year should buck that trend with Hop well on its way to that milestone, and both wide releases this weekend could also get there. Scream 4 and Rio are both tracking head of Hop's opening and by Monday could both be in the top five April openings of all time. Will that be enough to help 2011 finally earn an uncontested win in the year-over-year comparison? The total box office this time last year was $120 million, while the top two films should earn more than $40 million each. If the rest of the box office can't at least earn another $40 million, we are in serious trouble.

Scream 4 continues the franchise more than a decade after the previous installment. Scream 3 was the weakest film in terms of its box office haul, as well as for its critical reception. There is a chance those burned by that film won't be interested in this movie. For that matter, the target demographic for this film might not even remember the original movies. On the other hand, Scream 4's reviews are surprisingly robust and are among the best for a wide release this year. (Granted, the year's not that old.) If Scream 4 can sell as many tickets as Scream 3 did, it will open with just over $50 million during the next three days. That's probably a little optimistic, but $43 million is not.

Normally when a film opens internationally ahead of its domestic debut, it gives prognosticators a lot of extra information to go by. However, while Rio opened in first place on the international chart last weekend, the individual markets gave decidedly mixed signals. During its opening weekend in Brazil, the film earned almost as much as Gnomeo and Juliet made in a month. If it could perform as well here, it would be looking at nearly $90 million during its opening weekend. Granted, the film is set in Brazil, so that obviously has an effect. In Mexico it opened with roughly 50% more than Gnomeo and Juliet has made in total, and you can't credit home market advantage for that. Even compared to the more successful Rango, its opening was nearly twice as strong, which would give the film more than $70 million here and set a new record for April. On the other hand, it made less than $2.5 million in the U.K., which is equivalent to $15 million here. Gnomeo and Juliet opened with almost twice that amount. Analysts seem to be split on whether or not it will finish in first place. I think it will come close but will have to settle for second spot with $42 million.

After topping the box office charts for two weeks in a row, Hop will be pushed into third place this weekend. On the plus side, it should add about $11 million over the weekend to lift its running tally to $83 million. At this pace, it will take a couple of weeks, but it will get to $100 million before all is said and done.

Hanna surprised nearly everyone by earning second place last weekend in a very tight race with Arthur. I suspect it will be no different this weekend, except they will be battling for fourth place. There is a slim chance that the non-traditional target demographic for Soul Surfer will help it reach the top five again, but it is more likely that it will suffer from the Fanboy Effect and have weaker than average legs.


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Filed under: Weekend Preview, Rio, Scream 4, Arthur, Soul Surfer, Hanna, Hop