Fox 3D toon bows early with $55 mil overseas

Russell Brand held court at the Stateside box office with the weekend’s top two grossers, “Hop” and “Arthur.” But it was 20th Century Fox’s 3D-animated pic “Rio” that won the world, smashing toon records for an opening in Brazil and other territories, and posting 2011’s best-yet global debut of $55 million from 72 countries.

“Rio” bowed offshore a week before its U.S. launch, timed for a head start at foreign wickets as school holidays begin.

Fox had planned for “Rio” to go day and date with the U.S. this weekend, but pushed back its domestic launch to coincide with most spring break vacations, as well as a shorter lead-up to Easter on April 24. If “Rio’s” estimates hold, it will beat “Rango,” which debuted earlier this year with $54.8 million globally. The delayed Stateside bow also distances “Rio” from the similarly family-targeted “Hop.”

That film, Universal’s live-action/toon hybrid (Brand voiced the main bunny), scored its second straight Stateside win with an estimated $21.7 million at 3,616 domestic locations, down just 42%. Pic’s worldwide haul now stands at $83.3 million after an estimated $5.9 million international weekend take. Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ comedy redo “Arthur,” starring Brand in the title role, got off to a sluggish start with an estimated $12.6 million at 3,276 North American runs through Sunday.

Popularity for Brand among auds under 25 likely helped “Arthur” play best to that crowd, while turnout was weaker with adults, who were mostly absent from multiplexes this weekend as the new entries primarily skewed younger.

The frame’s other wide releases saw varied enthusiasm from moviegoers, with Focus Features’ Saoirse Ronan kid-assassin thriller “Hanna” overperforming — driven by robust latenight shows on Friday and Saturday — for an estimated $12.3 million from 2,535. Universal’s R-rated raunch fest “Your Highness,” toplining Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman, failed to crack $10 million.

Sony’s faith-based targeted sports pic “Soul Surfer” did well, debuting with an estimated $11.1 million at 2,214 playdates. Not surprisingly, some of the pic’s best-performing plexes were in the Midwest, notably, in Oklahoma City and Nashville.

Landing in the top five (and beating out “Your Highness”) was FilmDistrict’s horror holdover “Insidious,” which saw a minimal drop this weekend, down just 27% in its soph sesh for an estimated $9.7 million. “Insidious,” which cost Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition less than $2 million to pick up (FilmDistrict spent north of $20 million for marketing) has cumed $27.1 million domestically.

In limited release, Oscilloscope bowed Kelly Reichardt-helmed Western “Meek’s Cutoff” at two New York locations, with an estimated per-screen average of $11,167.

Gotham’s Metropolitan Opera continued its fifth season of live transmissions on Saturday, screening Rossini’s “Le Comte Ory” for an estimated $2.2 million in North America. It was seen live on more than 850 screens, with an additional 425 screens in a total of 34 European and Latin American markets.

Spring retreat?

Back in the states, “Hop” also benefited from one more week before “Rio” hits multiplexes. The toon hybrid, from Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment, is poised to cross the $100 million mark, according to B.O. pundits. But that all depends on how well the film fares with families on spring break and with “Rio” in the market.

U distribution topper Nikki Rocco said she expects “Hop” to hold nicely through Easter, with plenty of tykes on vacation to go around.

Warners’ “Arthur” didn’t see much traction, underplaying industry expectations of a mid-to-low teens-range launch. Still, Warners distribution exec Dan Fellman said the film could pick up speed during school vacation. “We opened the film this weekend for a reason, and that was to play through spring break,” Fellman said.

“Arthur” opened best to moviegoers under 25, repping 36% of the film’s debut demo. And while the film scored an overall B CinemaScore rating, its under-18 crowd gave the film an A- appraisal. That ultimately could be good news for “Arthur” as it enters holdover mode.

Sony’s fellow opener “Soul Surfer” — another younger aud pleaser — scored a rare A+ rating with solid exit polls across the board, the studio said. The film skewed overwhelming toward young femmes, with 80%, and targeted mostly tweens, teens and moms.

Rory Bruer, prexy of worldwide distribution at Sony, attributed the film’s inspirational feel, added to its sports theme, as driving factors for future play outside of metropolitan areas.

“The film really did play well all over,” Bruer said, “but it definitely resonated in the Heartland.”

U major and mini

U had less success with “Your Highness,” which cost just shy of $50 million, sources said. Pic skewed toward male audiences, with 58%, and thanks to its R rating, played best with those over 25 (55%). Still, the film’s core audience wasn’t able to spark interest on a wider base.

“Your Highness,” directed by David Gordon Green, scored a C+ CinemaScore, and so did Joe Wright helmed “Hanna,” which Focus theatrical distribution prexy Jack Foley countered: “We still didn’t see a pause in traffic this weekend.”

Despite attracting similar demos to its fellow openers, “Hanna” played to industry expectations, likely because of the film’s original concept about a child assassin on the run. “In this marketplace, in these conditions, it’s great to have the film perform,” Foley said.

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