Disney's 3D toon bests 'Hall Pass' with $14.2 mil

With box office down more than 20% in the first two months of the year, a 3D toon in its third week of play topped the weekend’s domestic B.O. ahead of two wide openers.

Disney’s “Gnomeo and Juliet” made a surprising resurgence, claiming the top spot with an estimated $14.2 million from 3,037 locations.

Toon’s take, down just 26% from last weekend, was enough to outgross New Line’s fresh entry “Hall Pass,” which Warner Bros. launched at 2,950 engagements for an estimated weekend gross of $13.4 million.

“No head-to-head family competition for three weeks really helped us get our sea legs,” noted Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane.

As the only family-friendly film in the marketplace, “Gnomeo” benefited from positive word of mouth to finish with an estimated $75.1 million cume through the weekend.

The Farrelly brothers’ latest laffer “Hall Pass,” toplining Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, got off to a sluggish start on Friday, making it unlikely it would reach its projected mid-to-high teens estimate. The frame’s other wide release, Summit’s 3D Nicolas Cage actioner “Drive Angry,” disappointed with just $5.1 million from 2,290 locations, of which nearly all were in 3D. Several Oscar-nommed pics still in play, namely Weinstein Co.’s “The King’s Speech” and Fox Searchlight’s “Black Swan,” enjoyed sizeable bumps leading up to Sunday’s Oscarcast. “The King’s Speech,” now with Stateside totals at $114.5 million, surged 17% over last weekend, thanks in large part to its added 300 locations, with an estimated gross of $7.6 million. “Black Swan” took in $1.4 million, up 22%, for a cume of $103.6 million domestically.

“Gnomeo” will be least affected by the kudocast since families typically pump Sunday matinees, while adult-driven fare like Warners’ pair, “Hall Pass” and “Unknown,” could struggle that day with auds over 25 more likely to tune into the show.

“Hall Pass,” which received an overall B- CinemaScore rating, didn’t play according to studio expectations, noted Warners distrib head Dan Fellman, as the film skewed 48% over 35, with just 22% of the aud aged 18-24. “I thought that would be a much larger piece,” Fellman admitted.

“Usually, movies that are dedicated to the young male demo have a big Friday, then flatten on Saturday,” Fellman added. “We started out the weekend with $4.6 million and went up 23% on Saturday, which is outside the path you’d expect it to take.”

The laffer did, however, skew mostly male (55%), but so did Summit’s “Drive Angry” (69%). That pic also played best to older auds as 57% were over 30.

Even with 3D engagements at 97% of locations, “Drive Angry” stalled with a C+ CinemaScore rating, an unpromising perf considering men are the biggest backers of 3D.

Summit bought U.S. distrib rights to “Drive Angry” from Nu Image/Millennium Films and producers Rene Besson and Michael De Luca. It was directed by Patrick Lussier who co-wrote it with Todd Farmer.

With similar target auds, “Hall Pass” and “Drive Angry” likely suffered from cannibalization, allowing “Gnomeo” to rise through the ranks unhampered by competing pics.

Last year, Paramount-DreamWorks Animation’s “How To Train Your Dragon,” with a boffo $218 million take domestically, showed comparable resilience when it rose to No. 1 in its fourth week of release, thanks to an empty playing field for family fare. “Gnomeo” won’t reach “Dragon’s” heights, but Disney still expects the toon to wind up somewhere north of $100 million.

Soph sesh entries “Unknown” and “I Am Number Four” saw better-than-expected holds, both falling 43%, as opposed to more typical drops ranging between 50%-55%.

“Unknown” posted an estimated $12.4 million for third place, while DreamWorks’ “I Am Number Four” landed at No. 5 with $11 million, just behind Sony’s $11.1 million for “Just Go With It,” in its third frame. Stateside totals for “Unknown” reached $42.8 million through the weekend; “Four” has cumed $37.7 million and “Just Go With It,” $79.4 million.

Entering its third frame, Paramount’s “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” dropped a mere 31%, boosted by the film’s re-edited, exclusive, one-week run. Pic, which added 40 minutes of footage at 3D locations, grossed an estimated $9.2 million, bringing its cume to $62.8 million.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics launched Cannes Grand Prix winner “Of Gods and Men” at three U.S. locations for a hearty per-screen average of $22,317. French-lingo pic grossed an estimated total of $66,950.

IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films’ faith-based “The Grace Card” opened at 352 engagements with $1.1 million. Distrib reported that the film has sparked positive word of mouth, especially in the Midwestern states, which should bode well for its upcoming expansion.

Gotham’s Metropolitan Opera continued its fifth season of live transmissions, screening Gluck’s “Iphigenie en Tauride” for an estimated $1.75 million in North America. It was seen live on more than 840 screens, with an additional 550 screens in Europe and Latin America.

At the overseas box office, Fox Searchlight’s “Black Swan” continued to rule the roost with a weekend estimate of $17 million from 45 territories. Disney-DreamWorks’ “I Am Number Four” also gained ground, earning $16.3 million for the weekend after expanding to China, Russia, Australia and the U.K.

“Black Swan” has grossed $122.6 million internationally, while “Four” is off to a solid start with $19.3 million in two weeks overseas.

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