He's not that wimpy.
Kiddie sequel 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules' outslugged action fantasy 'Sucker Punch' to rule the box office this weekend. The film opened with an estimated $24.4 million, even better than the $22.1 million debut of the first 'Wimpy Kid' movie a year ago, while 'Sucker Punch,' based on an original idea by comic-book-loving director Zack Snyder, failed to crack $20 million.
'Wimpy Kid 2' did even better than the $20 to $22 million experts had predicted. The original 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' was a surprise hit with both critics and families, and while the sequel's reviews weren't quite as good as the first, fans were eager to see the follow-up. The middle-school comedy had the widest release (3,167 screens) of any new movie this week and was playing in more theaters than any movie except 'Rango,' its only real competition for family audiences.
Many pundits had expected 'Sucker Punch' to win the weekend with a take of around $22 to $24 million. The girl-gang saga won Friday night with an estimated $8.1 million, but its take was front-loaded, with most of the young-male audience who wanted to see it doing so on opening night. As a result, it fell behind 'Wimpy Kid' to debut in second place with an estimated $19.0 million. Not helping was the film's lack of star power, its hard-to-explain premise, and the fact that director Snyder, even after '300' and 'Watchmen,' still isn't a big enough brand name to open a movie on his own. 'Sucker Punch' could end up the sort of movie, like last year's 'Kick-Ass' and 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,' that brings in the die-hard fanboys but no one else.
A more conventional sci-fi tale, 'Limitless,' was third with an estimated $15.2 million. After topping the chart when it premiered last week, the Bradley Cooper movie held up very well, losing just 19 percent of last week's business. Its 10-day total is $41.3 million.
Holding on to fourth place, 'The Lincoln Lawyer' enjoyed the smallest drop of any wide-release movie this week, just 17 percent, down to an estimated $11.0 million. Like 'Limitless,' the legal thriller continued to play well to adult drama moviegoers. Over two weekends, it's earned $29.0 million.
In its fourth week, cartoon western 'Rango' is still going great guns. The Johnny Depp movie earned an estimated $9.8 million this weekend (down a modest 35 percent from a week ago), good for fifth place. It also became the first 2011 release to cross $100 million (its take stands at $106.4 million).
Overall, 2011's box office is down almost 20 percent from the first three months of 2010. Of course, those three months were dominated by 'Avatar' and 'Alice in Wonderland,' two unusually huge hits, the likes of which we have yet to see this year.
The full top 10:
1. 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,' $24.4 million (3,167 screens), new release
2. 'Sucker Punch,' $19.0 million (3,033), new release
3. 'Limitless,' $15.2 million (2,805), $29.0 million total
4. 'The Lincoln Lawyer,' $11.0 million (2,707), $29.0 million
5. 'Rango,' $9.8 million (3,645), $106.4 million
6. 'Battle: Los Angeles,' $7.6 million (3,118), $72.6 million
7. 'Paul,' $7.5 million (2,806), $24.6 million
8. 'Red Riding Hood,' $4.3 million (2,715), $32.5 million
9. 'The Adjustment Bureau,' $4.2 million (2,282), $54.9 million
10. 'Mars Needs Moms,' $2.2 million (2,170), $19.2 million
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.