In this weekend's Russell Brand vs. Russell Brand showdown, the real Russell Brand lost. The cartoon Brand in 'Hop' ruled the box office for the second straight weekend, while the live-action Brand's 'Arthur' debuted in a distant second place.
In its second weekend, 'Hop' dropped 42 percent to an estimated $21.7 million. That was a little steeper than expected, given the absence of other animated family fare in theaters. Still, it was enough for the Easter-themed movie to jump to a 10-day total of $68.2 million, putting it well on the way to crossing the $100 million mark.
'Arthur' debuted at No. 2 with an estimated $12.6 million, well below expectations that the comedy would earn between $15 and $18 million. The premise, about a lovable drunken billionaire, didn't resonate well in our recessionary, abstemious times. Younger viewers may not have remembered the 1981 original with Dudley Moore, and moviegoers who did may have been put off by weak reviews. Since the movie featured Brand doing the shtick he's best known for, its stumble out of the gate casts doubts over whether he can carry a movie -- when he's not playing a rabbit, at least.
'Arthur' came in only a hair ahead of 'Hanna' (in fact, when final numbers are released Monday, their chart positions may swap). The arty action thriller about a teenage hitwoman had a surprisingly strong debut, with an estimated $12.3 million, well above the $8 to $10 million range predicted. With the best reviews of the weekend, 'Hanna' transcended its art-house pedigree (it marked the reunion of the director and star of 'Atonement,') an unproven leading lady in 16-year-old Saoirse Ronan and a modest-sized release pattern (2,535 screens).
Another unlikely blonde teen heroine fared nearly as well. Opening at No. 4 was 'Soul Surfer,' with an estimated $11.1 million. That's about $1 million better than expected, given the still-strong family competition from 'Hop' and a release on just 2,214 screens. But the film, an inspirational drama based on the life of surfer and shark-attack survivor Bethany Hamilton, was well-marketed, especially to Christian moviegoers (Bethany's faith plays a major part in the story) and earned the strongest word-of-mouth of any film this weekend. It also had a higher per-screen average than 'Hanna' ($5,014 to $4,812), suggesting it can ride the wave of popularity for a few weeks longer than 'Hanna.'
Haunted house chiller 'Insidious' held up better than expected, dropping a mere 27 percent to an estimated $9.7 million, good for fifth place. Horror films tend to drop off quickly, and this one was expected to fall to around $7 or $8 million in its second weekend. Credit good word-of-mouth for the film having earned $27.1 million in 10 days, very profitable for a movie that cost about $1 million to make.
The crowded weekend's fourth wide release, 'Your Highness,' didn't crack the top five, opening in sixth place with a disappointing $9.5 million, according to estimates. (Still, that's close enough to 'Insidious' that the two could switch places when Monday's final numbers are out.) The film had star power going for it (including Natalie Portman - in an armored bikini - and James Franco) and was made by the same team that made the hit 'Pineapple Express.' Pundits expected those factors to result in a debut around $13 million. But the movie had a restrictive R rating, a release on less than 2,800 screens and hit-or-miss reviews. Plus, as a medieval stoner comedy, it may have been too inside-jokey for all but fanboys, following the pattern of fellow Universal releases 'Paul' and 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.'
The full top 10:
1. 'Hop,' $21.7 million (3,616 screens), $68.2 million total
2. 'Arthur,' $12.6 million (3,216), new release
3. 'Hanna,' $12.3 million (2,535), new release
4. 'Soul Surfer,' $11.1 million (2,214), new release
5. 'Insidious,' $9.7 million (2,419), $27.1 million
6. 'Your Highness,' $9.5 million (2, 769), new release
7. 'Source Code,' $9.1 million (2,971), $28.6 million
8. 'Limitless,' $5.7 million (2,655), $64.4 million
9. 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,' $4.9 million (2,881), $45.5 million
10. 'The Lincoln Lawyer,' $4.6 million (2,420), $46.5 million
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.