Watch the birdies.
The birds of 'Rio' continued to feather their nest this weekend, holding on to the top spot at the box office for the second straight week with an estimated $26.8 million. Not flying quite so high was 'Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family,' which had been expected to soar to No. 1 but had to settle for opening in second place with an estimated $25.8 million.
'Rio' held up remarkably well, losing just 32 percent of last week's business; $26.8 million is a figure most movies would kill for during their first weekend. In ten days, the cartoon has racked up $81.3 million. Since it should continue to hold up over the next couple of weekends, in the absence of much family-friendly competition, 'Rio' could end up one of the biggest hits of the year.
Tyler Perry's sixth movie featuring him performing in drag as gun-toting granny Madea had been expected to open between $30 and $34 million. After all, the last movie with "Madea" in the title (2009's 'Madea Goes to Jail') debuted with a whopping $41 million, albeit on a less crowded weekend. While 'Big Happy Family' premiered with an impressive per-screen average ($11,254 per venue, more than that of any other wide-release movie this week), its weekend total was more in line with Perry's average opening of $23.7 million over his last nine movies. Perry's popularity may not be slipping, but it seems he can no longer guarantee a $30 million-plus opening just by putting Madea's name in the title.
Debuting in third place was 'Water for Elephants,' with an estimated $17.5 million. That's a tad higher than expected for the Robert Pattinson-Reese Witherspoon romance. It's also a very good number for a Pattinson movie that doesn't involve vampires. And it should continue to be a hit over the next few weeks, as there'll be little prestige-drama fare or romantic movies targeted at women as we transition into the summer popcorn season.
'Hop' hung around long enough to take advantage of Easter. In its fourth week, the bunny cartoon actually saw an increase in business (up 16 percent), which is rare. Its estimated take was $12.5 million, good for fourth place and a four-week total of just over $100 million.
'Scream 4,' on the other hand, lost a drastic 62 percent of its business since its debut last week, falling three spots to No. 5 on an estimated $7.2 million. Poor word-of-mouth has held the long-awaited horror sequel's two-weekend total down to $31.2 million.
For the third Earth Day in a row, Disney has released a nature documentary that opened in the $6 to $9 million range. This year's was 'African Cats,' which clawed its way to a $6.4 million opening, debuting at No. 6.
Total box office for the top 10 was about 9 percent higher than the same weekend last year. That's two straight weekends of improvement over 2010, suggesting that the long slump of 2011 may finally be on its way out.
The full top 10:
1. 'Rio,' $26.8 million (3,842 screens), $81.3 million total
2. 'Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family,' $25.8 million (2,288), new release
3. 'Water for Elephants,' $17.5 million (2,817), new release
4. 'Hop,' $12.5 million (3,616 screens), $100.5 million
5. 'Scream 4,' $7.2 million (3,314), $31.2 million
6. 'African Cats,' $6.4 million (1,220), new release
7. 'Soul Surfer,' $5.6 million (2,240), $28.7 million
8. 'Insidious,' $5.4 million (2,130), $44.2 million
9. 'Hanna,' $5.3 million (2,384), $31.8 million
10. 'Source Code,' $5.1 million (2,363), $44.7 million
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.