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Top Ten: Pricey ‘300’ Sequel and ‘Mr. Peabody’ Pass $30 Million; ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ Opens Huge

Top Ten: Pricey '300' Sequel and 'Mr. Peabody' Pass $30 Million; 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Opens Huge

So far the 2014 box office keeps surging on, at least compared to 2013–beating last year’s numbers for 15 weeks in a row. 

As expected, two decent openers, sequel “300: Rise of an Empire” (Warner Bros.) and Fox/DreamWorks’ “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” fell short of their precursors but showed enough life to push the Top 10 total to around $126 million. Both new entries are scoring even better overseas.

The weekend’s biggest success story is the limited four-theater opening of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Fox Searchlight), which scored around $800,000  for a staggering $200,000 per screen average. More on this and other specialized grosses in Arthouse Audit, anon.

1. 300: Rise of an Empire (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Criticwire:; Metacritic:

$45,050,000 in 3,470 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $12,893,000; Cumulative: $45,090,000

This long-gestating sequel to 2007’s Frank Miller graphic novel adaptation returned neither director Zack Snyder (who produced, but moved on to Warners/Legendary property “Man of Steel”) nor star Gerald Butler. Meanwhile, the $455-million worldwide gross of the original inspired a spate of sword and sandal genre films and cable shows. That helps explain the drop off from the $71 million opening weekend haul the first time. In that context, this is a decent start for the $100 million production, particularly with initial foreign grosses looking to be in the $60 million range.

This marks the third release in the genre this year, all in 3D. The earlier entries had much less domestic appeal (“Legend of Hercules” managed just $19 million, “Pompeii” will fall short of $30 million). The 3D worked best for “Rise of an Empire” (15% of the gross from IMAX, 63% overall from 3D), and a strong showing from male ticket buyers (62%, a very high split these days as the younger male audience has been noticeably absent).

The B Cinemascore suggests a more mixed audience response, reinforced by Saturday’s gross falling below Friday’s actual total (the reported figure includes decent Thursday evening shows), although it actually held better than the first one (which fell 12% its second day).

The release comes with the backdrop of the recent Warners/Legendary divorce, with the latter choosing Universal as its new partner (Warners retains rights to Marvel Comics projects including Superman). This isn’t their final release together (“Godzilla” still lurks), but particularly with the strong initial foreign returns this looks like business as usual.

What comes next: Even if this is vulnerable to a quick falloff next weekend (too early to say), this initial take guarantees that the domestic take will not be far short of the first entry, with international looking to be much ahead (the world has changed dramatically since 2007), getting this into positive territory for Warners and Legendary.

2. Mr. Peabody and Sherman (Twentieth Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 50

$32,500,000 in 3,934 theaters; PSA: $8,261; Cumulative: $32,500,000

Opening up 50% ahead of DreamWorks’ last animated Fox release “Turbo,” which ended up taking a small loss, and positioning itself with strong audience response to hold well through the spring holidays, this expensive ($140 million) production is already off to a decent international start ($40 million before this weekend in selected territories). It doesn’t rank among the top 10 of March animated releases, but the long run should determine its fate far more than its initial take. Saturday had a decent uptick (from a Friday number that included Thursday night totals), and the response from younger audiences on Cinemascore – A+ – has equal importance as its overall March historical placement.

Animated films have accounted for nearly 25% of the 2014 box office so far, with “Frozen,” “The Nut Job” and “The Lego Movie” previously scoring big takes. “Mr. Peabody” faces a lot more competition than many past new animated releases, and characters coming out of the 1960s “Rocky and Bullwinkle” don’t have the initial draw that many other kids-oriented films do. That makes this decent initial gross more impressive.

DreamWorks-connected Rob Minkoff, co-director of Disney’s Katzenberg-era blockbuster “The Lion King,” returns to a success he has not seen since his “Stuart Little” films.

What comes next: How this holds next week is critical, but the prospects look bright for this as of now.

3. Non-Stop (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #1

$15,400,000 (-47%) in 3,113 theaters (+23); PSA: $3,113; Cumulative: $52,100,000

“Taken,” the template for this Liam Neeson-saves-the-day actioner, fell only 17% its second weekend (it started a bit lower, but went on to $145 million domestic). “300” likely cut into the “Non-Stop” draw, but this was a smart Universal pickup.

What comes next: This looks headed for an $80 million+ take.

4. The Lego Movie (Warner Bros.) Week 5 – Last weekend #3

$11,005,000 (-47%) in 3,290 theaters (-480); PSA: $3,345; Cumulative: $224,972,000

“Mr. Peabody” proved strong competition for the kids’ market this weekend, but that’s a minor glitch as this major early year hit keeps accumulating decent grosses.

What comes next: Variable school spring vacations ahead will help boost upcoming returns.

5. Son of God (Twentieth Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #2

$10,000,000 (-61%) in 3,271 theaters (+11); PSA: $3,057; Cumulative: $41,495,000

A big drop for this theatrical revamp of Mark Burnett’s hit cable series “The Bible” suggests this won’t stick around until Easter.

What comes next: This is still mostly a marketing expense (since this came from existing material), making it a likely profitable venture to add to the strong cable take for the film.

6. The Monuments Men (Sony) Week 5- Last weekend #5

$3,100,000 (-37%) in 2,001 theaters (-1,001); PSA: $1,549; Cumulative: $70,602,000

Look at the numbers – 33% drop in theaters, but only 37% fall in gross. That’s a terrific hold for this surprisingly successful George Clooney-directed/starring effort. The early worldwide total is over $110 million, suggesting that Sony’s $70 million gamble (far more expensive than the director’s previous efforts) could pay off.

What comes next: This has got some life in it yet and could stick around for 2-3 more weeks.

7. 3 Days to Kill (Relativity) Week 3 – Last weekend #4

$3,062,000 (-38%) in 2,348 theaters (-524); PSA: $1,304; Cumulative: $25,566,000

Not a bad drop, but this has still fallen short of hopes.

What comes next: Holding on well enough to get a fourth Top 10 week.

8. Frozen (Buena Vista) Week 16 – Last weekend #8

$3,010,000 (-17%) in 1,660 theaters (-86); PSA: $1,813; Cumulative: $393,051,000

This double Oscar winner remains the biggest grosser among the group and keeps its four month string of Top 10 placements intact once again despite competition from two very strong family oriented entries.

What comes next: No reason to think this won’t see more Top 10 weeks ahead as this will soon pass $400 million domestic to go along with its $1 billion + worldwide haul.

9. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) Week 21 – Last weekend #18

$2,175,000 (+123%) in 1,065 theaters (+654); PSA: $2,042; Cumulative: $53,107,000

Grossing a bit more than last year’s Best Picture winner “Argo” in slightly more theaters, with both films out on DVD at the same time as competition, this returns to the Top 10 for the first time since November. (“The Artist” in the previous year was not available on DVD and did $3.6 million and ultimately added $12 million). International –already ahead of domestic — is likely to show an even greater uptick.

What comes next: “Argo” ended up adding about $6 million last year, which seems likely this time around for “12 Years.”

10. (tie) Ride Along (Universal) Week 8 – Last weekend #10

$2,000,000 (-34%) in 1,323 theaters (-546); PSA: $1,515; Cumulative: $130,000,000

This long-running success keeps on adding to its terrific total.

What comes next: This is the most unexpected hit of 2014 so far – 8 weeks in the Top 10 and $130 million total is double what might have been anticipated.

10. (tie) Robocop (Sony) Week 4 – Last weekend #6

$2,000,000 (-56%) in 1,714 theaters (-1,171); PSA: $1,167; Cumulative: $54,746,000

Foreign once again is saving the day for Sony, as worldwide totals reach $200 million so far.

What comes next: This doesn’t look strong enough to reboot the series any further.

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