LOS ANGELES (AP):
The good news for Russell Brand is that his animated comedy Hop remains the top movie for the second-straight weekend with US$21.7 million.
The bad news is that his new live-action comedy Arthur could not jump as high as Hop.
The Warner Bros remake of Dudley Moore's 1981 romance about a rich, drunken man-child finally learning to grow up, Arthur was a distant second with a modest debut of US$12.6 million, according to studio estimates yesterday.
Opening close behind at No. 3 with US$12.3 million was Focus Features' Hanna, the tale of a teenager trained as a killing machine that stars Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan.
Sony's Soul Surfer debuted at No. 4 with US$11.1 million. The movie features AnnaSophia Robb in the real-life story of a surfer struggling toward a comeback after losing an arm in a shark attack.
The weekend's other new wide release, Universal's medieval action comedy Your Highness, opened at No. 6 with US$9.5 million, weak results given a cast that includes James Franco and Natalie Portman.
With a solid second weekend, Brand's Easter bunny tale Hop raised its 10-day total to US$68.2 million. With Easter two weeks away, the Universal release still has room to roam at the box office.
"I'm so thrilled that we're so far ahead of the pack," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution at Universal.
The poor results for Your Highness dimmed the mood at the studio, which had hoped more young males would turn out for the tale starring Franco, Portman and Danny McBride in a blend of supernatural action and frat-boy raunchiness.
"It was a risky concept. It was a very outrageous movie," Rocco said. "I wish more of the male audience had turned out. We always want it better, but it's not a total disaster."
Warner Bros also had hoped for more out of Arthur, whose revenues came in on the low side of the studio's expectations.
According to the studio's exit surveys, younger crowds liked Arthur much better than those over 50, who likely were comparing it unfavourably to Moore's beloved original version.
"Younger people that went in who probably weren't around to see the original came in with a fresh approach," said Dan Fellman, Warner's head of distribution. "We really have to maintain the campaign to keep it young and keep rolling into the spring holidays."
Hanna and Soul Surfer were drastically different portraits of young women, the former a tale of a girl raised to kill, the latter an inspirational drama of a competitor fighting back against the odds.
Both movies found solid audiences amid another weekend of declining business for Hollywood, whose revenues are down 20.5 per cent so far this year compared to 2010's.
Despite the slowdown, Soul Surfer managed to come in a bit ahead of the studio's expectations for the weekend.
"It's a movie that people love. It's prevailing over adversity in a really big way, and a movie with tremendous heart," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony.
Revenues have been down virtually every weekend since last November, a prolonged decline that has left Hollywood looking toward the blockbuster-packed summer season to turn things around.
Last year, Hollywood started strongly then saw business fade over the summer and through the holidays. This year, analysts say the opposite may happen, with a strong summer and holiday lineup potentially putting Hollywood back in the black.
"We're a month from the start of the summer movie season, and that's a big deal," said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "We need summer now more than ever to get us out of the box-office doldrums."
Estimated ticket sales, Friday to Sunday, at US and Canadian theatres - Hollywood.com:
1. Hop, US$21.7m.
2. Arthur, US$12.6m.
3. Hanna, US$12.3m.
4. Soul Surfer, US$11.1m.
5. Insidious, US$9.7m.
6. Your Highness, US$9.5m.
7. Source Code, US$9.1m.
8. Limitless, US$5.7m.
9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, US$4.9m.
10. The Lincoln Lawyer, US$4.6m.