WINNER OF THE WEEK: Tyler Perry. Sure, the multi-hyphenate didn’t score Easter weekend’s top debut; that prize went, as expected, to G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which opened with an estimated $41.2 million. It didn’t even finish second; that honor went to last week’s family animated comedy hit The Croods, which earned another estimated $26.5 million this weekend, for a ten-day total of $88.6 million. In fact, Perry’s unwieldy-titled Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor premiered in third place, with an estimated $22.3 million. Still, given that most pundits expected it to open in the $15-$18 million range, that’s pretty impressive, especially considering how many strikes the movie had against it.
For one thing, there’s no Madea in this movie, and Perry’s movies in which he plays the gun-toting grandma tend to do better than those without her. Second, this is a more dramatic revision of one of Perry’s lighter stage comedies, so that might not have sat well with the core audience that knows the source material. Third is the opening on Easter weekend, a time when much of his core audience would likely be attending church, not the cinema. (Though that hasn’t stopped Perry from succeeding with three previous movies released the same holiday weekend in prior years.) Fourth is the casting of publicity magnet Kim Kardashian in a prominent role, a move not likely to lend much credibility to the whole effort. That none of this made a difference only proves yet again that Perry knows his audience better than the box office analysts do.
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By contrast, Retaliation seems less impressive, even with a big enough haul to earn the Number Two spot on the all-time list of Easter debuts. (Number One is Clash of the Titans, which premiered with $61.2 million three years ago.) Adding its take from Wednesday and Thursday, that’s $51.7 million for the toy-soldier sequel. On the other hand, Retaliation didn’t even earn as much as The Hunger Games did this time last year, on its second weekend ($58.6 million). Nor did it earn as much as the first G.I. Joe did when it premiered in summer 2009 ($54.7 million). And that movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, didn’t have the advantage of 3D ticket surcharges or big stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis. (Both installments had Channing Tatum, but he’s a much bigger star now.) True, Retaliation did twice as well overseas as it did here, so distributor Paramount can’t be too disappointed, but the movie should have opened domestically with upwards of $50 million.
One reason it might not have is last week’s surprise action hit, Olympus Has Fallen. That movie lost more than 50 percent of last week’s business, but it still finished in fourth place with an estimated $14.0 million, suggesting that Olympus and Retaliation took bites out of each other’s audience. Rounding out the top five, Oz the Great and Powerful earned another estimated $11.6 million, for a four-week total that’s less than $2 million shy of $200 million.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Stephenie Meyer. Hollywood’s search for the next Twilight franchise continued to fizzle with The Host, an offering from the Twilight author herself, based on her 2008 sci-fi/romance novel about a young woman who resists an alien invasion. Though it opened on more than 3,200 screens, two-year-old indie distributor Open Road hadn’t done much to market it beyond the core teen-girl audience that made the Twilight saga a hit. As a result, pundits expected it to open no higher than $15 million, but it didn’t even do that well. Instead, it debuted in sixth place with an estimated $11.0 million. Already this year, Open Road has had modest hits with horror spoof A Haunted House (which earned a total of $40.0 million) and thriller Side Effects ($31.1 million); The Host will have trouble reaching those levels, much less launching a new franchise.
THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: Meanwhile, at the art house, The Place Beyond the Pines, the much-buzzed-about crime drama starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, opened strongly with 270,000 on four screens. (That’s a stunning $67,500 per screen; Retaliation and Temptation both opened with around $11,000 per screen.) That bodes well for the wider release of the film in the coming weeks. Also strong were Renoir, a biopic about the French Impressionist master, with $63,700 on six screens, and Room 237, the festival hit documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, with $36,000 on two screens. If you heard theatergoers chanting “Redrum, redrum,” that’s just the sound of this movie’s cult audience growing.