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Weekend Box Office: Two Openers (Rango and Adjustment Bureau) Win, Two Openers (Beastly, Take Me Home Tonight) Lose

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Paramount released its first non-Dreamworks cartoon in nearly five years this weekend. And indeed, the number one film by a long shot was Gore Verbinski's Rango (teaser/review). The critically-acclaimed and nearly-existential Johnny Depp vehicle grossed $38 million over the three-day weekend. That's the biggest opening for a Paramount animated feature not from Dreamworks, although it's slightly behind in attendance compared to the $32 million opening of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie back in November of 2004. Paramount's animated fare has been exclusively Dreamworks since the August 2006 release of Barnyard: The Original Party Animals. Since they acquired Dreamworks in early 2006, they've basically been just releasing the Katzenberg cartoons. But prior to that, they actually had a good thing going with Nickelodeon, although they have released a few Nickelodeon live-action co-ventures over the last few years (Charlotte's Web, Hotel For Dogs, etc). This will hopefully mark the return of Nickelodeon-funded animated features. Can't let Disney have all the fun.

Certain pundits were hoping for a $45-50 million opening weekend, but the film was just quirky and scary enough for parents to (correctly) decide not to take their kids, especially with a flurry of reviews landing around Wednesday that basically warned parents about the film's inherently adult nature. With the safe Gnomeo and Juliet still available, parents may have opted out or at least chosen to wait and see what their peers had to say. Or, alas, one could argue that the choice to release this one in just 2D is a win for art but a commercial blow, as even a token 15-20% 3D boost would have gotten this one to about well, $45-50 million. It played 54% female and 54% over-30. Like most mainstream animated fare these days, this one cost about $135 million, so how it fares from here is a matter of legs and word of mouth. After a near-complete lack of family fare (which is why Gnomeo and Juliet has held up so well), there is a coming deluge. In the next two months, we've got Mars Needs Moms, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, Hop, Rio, African Cats, and Hoodwinked Too. Again, the film is quite fantastic, so hopefully the various moviegoers who complain about the lack of quality fare will give this one a try in the coming months.

Coming in second place was The Adjustment Bureau (guest review). The film may have had a silly poster and a goofy premise, but there is an audience for an adult, star-driven thriller. Universal picked this one up for $62 million, so the $21.1 million opening weekend means that the film will probably be profitable barring a complete collapse (Matt Damon sells pretty well overseas). This is a pretty decent win for Damon, as he's been getting unfairly tagged when his prestige 'one-for-me' projects like The Informer or Hereafter don't perform like The Bourne Supremacy. Emily Blunt wins purely for the exposure, as she's been 'one-film away' from breaking out for five years. While she may (or may not, I have not seen the film) play the 'insert love interest HERE' role that she's so often been stuck in, she certainly appears to have more to do this time around than in The Wolfman (review) or The Great Buck Howard (review). Playing 73% over-30 and 57% female,this solid debut once again proves how starved audiences are for old-fashioned thrillers (the film scored an uncommonly high-for a live action film-multiplier of 3.15x), which bodes well for Matthew McConaughey's The Lincoln Lawyer opening in two weeks (it's supposed to be quite good, but I've been warned to avoid the spoiler-filled trailer). This one is the kind of film that becomes the second choice of general moviegoers, so it should have decent legs over the next month.

The next opener was a bust, as CBS Film's Beastly pretty much closed the book on the brief stardom of Alex Pettyfer. I Am Number Four (review) failed to set the world on fire, and this cheap ($17 million) Beauty and the Beast revamp opened with just $9.8 million. Taken on its own, the number wasn't terrible for the cheap CBS Films release, which has already sold off foreign distribution rights. But when you're touted as the next-big-thing, you need to deliver. Following two such relative disappointments and all kinds of negative press attention for his alleged work ethic and his personal relationship issues, Pettyfer will likely soon be begging for Alex Rider: Point Blanc. This is indeed a very slight setback for Vanessa Hudgens, although I imagine she gets more credit for the $9.8 million opening than Pettyfer does. Regardless, she has a supporting role in Zach Snyder's Sucker Punch (teaser/trailer) in just under a month, so she should be fine in the long run. The other major release was the long-delayed Take Me Home Tonight. The 1980s comedy has been held up for four years, allegedly due to its pervasive drug content, but audiences did not respond. The Topher Grace/Anna Faris/Teresa Palmer/Dan Folger comedy opened with just $3.5 million over the weekend. 2011 has not been a good year for Relativity.

In holdover news, Hall Pass fell just 34% for a $8.8 million second-weekend. The Farrelly Brothers picture now has $26.8 million in ten days, which is the biggest ten-day gross for a Farrelly Brothers film since Shallow Hall ($40 million) back in November 2001. It's not a mega-smash, but it's a token step up after a decade of diminishing returns. Drive Angry 3D (review) fell out of the top ten after one weekend and will struggle to top $15 million (it's at $9 million). Pity... Gnomeo and Juliet took a hit from the direct competition of Rango, but still pulled in a decent $7.2 million fourth-weekend. The Touchtone release has grossed $84 million and will likely collapse next weekend against Disney's Mars Needs Moms. With $69 million so far, Justin Beiber: Never Say Never surpassed the $65 million gross of Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds and is just $3 million away from surpassing Michael Jackson: This Is It (review) as the biggest-grossing concert film/musical documentary ever. Liam Neeson's Unknown (review) now sits with $53 million, which means the $30 million vehicle will likely cross $70 million. Finally, The King's Speech celebrated its Oscar wins by dropping 15%, but still took in $6.2 million and raised its total to $123 million. We'll see if the PG-13 version of the film will play any better than The Passion of the Christ Recut, but I sincerely doubt it.

That's it for this weekend. Join us next weekend when three BIG movies face off. Disney gives us Mars Needs Moms, Warner Bros delivers the Catherine Hardwicke-helmed and Amanda Seyfried-starring Red Riding Hood, while Sony unleashes Battle: Los Angeles. Look for reviews of those last two later in the week, and check out an early review of the limited-release horror drama Black Death right now.

Scott Mendelson