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Weekend Box Office: Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 Knocks Out Slightly-under-performing Sucker Punch

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SUCKER PUNCH
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In a somewhat surprising result, the heavily-advertised action-fantasy Sucker Punch (teaser/trailer) did not top the box office this weekend, losing a close race to the lower-profile but popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules was number one for the weekend, with $24.4 million. The second film in the series comes just over a year after 20th Century Fox released the premiere entry (titled simply Diary of a Wimpy Kid) took the number-two slot with $22 million. With no massive Alice in Wonderland standing it is way this time, the further adventures of Zachery Gordon promoted itself to the top slot. The original film cost $15 million and ended up with $65 million in domestic sales. The sequel cost just $21 million and will theoretically end up in the same $60-70 million ballpark. This is certainly not a strong overseas franchise (the original grossed just $11 million in foreign markets), but 20th Century Fox has no reason not to keep pumping out adaptations of the long-running (five books so far) kid-lit series as long as the price is right. So, coming March 2012: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw.Coming in at second place was Zach Snyder's ambitious action-fantasy Sucker Punch (review). The $85 million female-led adventure grossed just $19 million in its debut weekend. While Warner Bros. sold the film as a bubble-gum female empowerment epic, the film was actually a messy and dark examination of the sexualization of women in geek culture and the overall acceptance of institutional sexism. Stymied by the difficult-to-explain narrative and reviews that just couldn't see past the fishnets and colorful visuals, the film is another example of geek excitement not translating into mainstream interest. By itself, a $19 million opening weekend isn't all that troubling, the film had a mediocre 2.3x weekend multiplier, so legs are unlikely. The picture scored a mere B- from Cinemascore, meaning that audiences were as caught off-guard as critics. The one possible saving grace will be the overseas markets, which may well respond to the potent visuals and genuinely subversive undertones. This is a prime example of 'why we can't have nice things'. We all complain about mainstream entertainment lacking a point of view or challenging and imaginative material and when one comes along, the critics at large take a collective dump on it (it wasn't SUPPOSED to be traditionally empowering!!!) while audiences choose not to flock to it. Enjoy your Chutes and Ladders: the Movie.
As expected, the film played 64% male and 74% under-35. It will be interesting to see how this affects Zach Snyder's relationship with Warner Bros. This is his first purely original film, and he did bring it in at $85 million and at the request PG-13, the latter to the detriment of the film's quality it would seem. But this is his third-straight money loser for the company in a row, following Watchmen and Legend of the Guardians. Ironically, his one unqualified smash-hit 300, was his least engaging and least intellectually accomplished film so far. Go figure. Anyway, Warner Bros. successfully did damage control today by announcing that Amy Adams will be playing Lois Lane in Snyder's Superman picture, and we're sure to hear in the next few weeks just how deeply involved Chris Nolan is, as opposed to the now 'damaged goods' Zach Snyder. Still, this is yet another classic example of a filmmaker trying and (somewhat) failing and being ridiculed for it, while other filmmakers who fail to even try escape scrutiny. I'd rather have the Zach Snyders of the world swinging for the fences and merely scoring a ground-rule double.

Anyway, in holdover news, The Lincoln Lawyer (review) and Limitless both scored sensational holds, with the films having second weekend drops of just 16.7% and 19.5% respectively. As I've said a billion times, older audiences do like having films pitched at them once in awhile and the rock-solid business of these two star-driven adult thrillers are prime examples. Limitless sits at $41 million while The Lincoln Lawyer sits with $28 million. Limitless is a one-and-done, but Lincoln Lawyer's Mick Haller has several other literary adventures in print, so Lionsgate and Matthew McConaughey may have a franchise on their hands (god willing...). The best film of 2011, Rango (review) became one of the two first films of the year to cross $100 million, as it now sits with $103 million. Also joining the century club this weekend was the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston rom-com Just Go With It. Gnomeo and Juliet ($95 million) and The Green Hornet (review) with $97 million may join them if screen-bleeding and/or a lack of second-run theaters don't prevent that.

Battle: Los Angeles
(review) sits at $72 million in seventeen days, making $100 million domestic less-than-likely. Paul dropped 43% in weekend two ($24 million thus far), but the film is running about even with Hot Tub Time Machine, meaning that the spiritualistic-atheism comedy has a shot at $40 million, which will make it by far the most successful of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost vehicles thus far. In limited release, Win Win ($679,000) and Jane Eyre ($1.8 million) continue to burn up the arthouse chart, and Cedar Rapids ($6.1 million) again proves that it should have been a wide releaser. Oh, and mazel tov to CBS Films' Beastly, which surpassed my expectations and crossed the $25 million mark this weekend. I was wrong, as this one has something approaching legs.

That's it for this weekend. Join us next time for a stupidly crowded weekend, with three wide releases (Hop, Insidious, and Source Code), a PG-13 re-release of The King's Speech (f*ck no, do not go!), and a handful of noteworthy limited debuts (Super, Wrecked, Trust, and Rubber). Spread the wealth people... spread the wealth.

Scott Mendelson