Fox pic overtakes 'Sucker' to win weekend

The weekend’s domestic box office pitted families against fanboys as 20th Century Fox’s kidpic sequel “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” with an estimated $24.4 million, pulled a surprise victory over Warner Bros.’ visually riotous “Sucker Punch,” which estimated $19 million during its opening frame.

But considering family pics have played best this year (“Gnomeo and Juliet,” “Rango”), while younger-skewing genre titles such as “I Am Number Four” and “Red Riding Hood” have struggled to pop with their core demos, “Diary’s” family-driven win ultimately is in tune with recent B.O. trends.

“Diary” benefited from Saturday matinees, improving on opening day grosses by 39%, while “Sucker Punch,” which won Friday was down 17% the following day.

Saturday’s uptick was enough to

put “Diary” ahead of “Sucker Punch,” though some B.O. observers thought the latter had a slight edge given the popularity of helmer Zack Snyder and the film’s vfx-heavy look.

“When I woke up on Saturday morning and saw that we did $7.3 million on Friday, that’s when I knew we would win the weekend,” said Fox senior VP general sales manager Bert Livingston.

Still, “Sucker Punch” scored top-notch results with its 229 Imax runs, contributing just over $4 million — or 21% of the pic’s weekend take — making it the highest opening share ever for a 2D Imax title.

Overall box office was down approximately 6% over the same weekend last year, though that could change depending on how Sunday’s estimates hold.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co.’s Middle East-conflict drama “Miral” bowed to an estimated $65,000 at four locations, scoring a so-so $16,250 per-screen average. TWC plans to add seven markets next weekend, with an additional 25 cities starting on April 8.

“The film has a voice, and it has a point of view,” said TWC prexy of theatrical distribution Erik Lomis. “It’s still very topical.”

Fox Searchlight’s “Win Win” and Focus Features’ “Jane Eyre,” expanded to more U.S. markets this weekend, posting solid per-screen averages. “Win Win,” at 23 theaters, averaged $20,470 per screen with a total $470,804 for the weekend, while “Jane Eyre” took in just shy of $1 million, averaging $10,920 per screen. “Win Win” has cumed $678,720 through Sunday; “Jane Eyre,” $1.9 million.

Prior to the weekend, “Sucker Punch” was expected to land in the mid-$20 millions range, while most industryites thought it was unlikely for “Diary” to reach its predecessor’s $22 million bow.

Warners exec VP of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein admitted that “Sucker” appealed to a more specific demo, saying, “The concept of the movie was more narrow than Zack’s other movies like ’300.’” Pic played overwhelmingly to males aged under 25, and despite the film’s overall B- CinemaScore rating, it did better with moviegoers under 18 with a B+ rating.

And while those who purchased tickets mostly liked the film, some B.O. pundits say the film’s storyline was too vague to entice wider auds. As one rival studio exec said, “It looked stylish and cool, but ultimately fanboys weren’t sure what (the film) was about.”

Pic’s budget reportedly fell in the mid-$70 millions, which may raise profitability concerns when considering added marketing costs, as well as a somewhat soft overseas bow.

“Sucker” launched day and date this weekend in 23 international territories including Italy, Spain and Brazil, with $7.4 million. Pic’s bow reps just 28% of the overseas market, though its key markets hardly caught fire as Italy repped the film’s top-grossing market with an estimated $940,000. The film is set to go next week in France, Germany, Russia and the U.K.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “Diary” sequel avoided a day and date launch overseas, and instead will wait in most markets to benefit from tykes on summer vacation.

“Diary’s” Stateside bow, however, established the franchise’s popularity with families, scoring an overall A- CinemaScore appraisal. Pic earned 59% of its opening from moviegoers under 25, and those under 18 gave the film an A rating.

“Diary,” based on Jeff Kinney’s books, follows original wimpy kid (Zachary Gordon), who is joined by his older brother Rodrick, played by Devon Bostick. Pic cost a manageable $18 million, and it’s likely to show good staying power as spring break kicks off around the country, with approximately 13% of students out of school next week.

While “Diary” played well with families, Paramount’s toon holdover “Rango” also held nicely, down just 35%. Toon estimated $9.8 million for the weekend, boosting its U.S. cume to a resilient $106.4 million after four weeks.

The weekend’s best holds came from soph players “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “Limitless,” which dropped 17% and 19%, respectively. “Lincoln Lawyer,” from Lionsgate, had the market’s best repeat perf, with an estimated $11 million, while Relativity Media’s “Limitless” grossed $15 million after the film’s $19 million winning debut last weekend. “Limitless” so far has tallied $41.3 million; “Lincoln Lawyer,” $29 million.

Sony’s “Battle: Los Angeles” fell 48% in its third frame for an estimated weekend take of $7.6 million. That brings its cume to nearly $73 million, while the studio’s Adam Sandler comedy “Just Go With It,” having missed the top 10, passed the $100 million mark this weekend. Sandler now has 12 films in which he starred reach that milestone.

“Battle” won the weekend’s overseas title, posting $16.2 million, which narrowly beat Par’s “Rango,” taking in another $15.5 million. The former dropped just 33% in China after the film’s $11 million bow there last weekend, grossing $7.4 million locally in its soph sesh.

Debut market France and Russia (in its second outing) tied for bragging rights with “Rango,” both of which contributed an estimated $3.3 million. Toon’s international cume now stands at $94 million, while “Battle” has reached $79.5 million overseas.

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