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Water for Elephants Box Office: Reese Witherspoon-Robert Pattinson Circus Drama Overperforming

Robert Pattinson in Francis Lawrence's Water for Elephants
Robert Pattinson in Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants.

April 28

Carlos Saldanha’s Rio, featuring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, continued to – once again barely – lead the North American box office on Wednesday, April 27, grossing $1.55 million according to Box Office Mojo.

A little over $100,000 behind Rio was Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants, starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz. The period romantic drama collected $1.42 million at no. 2.

For the first time since it opened last Friday, Water for Elephants had the highest per-theater average among the top-twelve movies, $506. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family lost that top position following a steep 29.5 percent drop-off rate on Wednesday.

At no. 3, Madea’s Big Happy Family, featuring Perry, Loretta Devine, Isaiah Mustafa, Bow Wow, Shannon Kane, and Cassi Davis, earned $1.11 million. Its per-theater average was $486.

Madea’s Big Happy Family‘s Wednesday revenues were down 49 percent compared to Sunday. For comparison’s sake: Water for Elephants’ Sunday-Wednesday drop-off rate was only 20 percent.

AnnaSophia Robb, Lorraine Nicholson in Sean McNamara's Soul Surfer
AnnaSophia Robb, Lorraine Nicholson in Sean McNamara’s Soul Surfer

April 25

Rio de Janeiro was conspicuous at the international box office over Easter weekend (April 22-24). Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, and Tom Hiddleston, less so after opening in second place in Australia.

Carlos Saldanha’s Rio was the no. 1 movie internationally for the third consecutive weekend; it was followed by Justin Lin’s Fast Five, starring Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, which is partly set in Rio. (There’ll be more Rio on the big screen later in the year, when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 opens in November, as Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen and Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan spend their honeymoon there.)

Rio, featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jane Lynch, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, and George Lopez, collected an estimated $44.3 million in 66 territories as per Box Office Mojo. With $6.9 million, Brazil was Rio‘s top market; it was followed by France ($3.9m) and Mexico ($3.1m). Rio‘s international total to date: $206 million. Rio, in fact, is the first 2011 release to pass the $200 million milestone overseas.

At no. 1 in the United Kingdom ($8.8 million), Australia ($8.3 million), New Zealand ($950,000) and South Korea ($3.4 million), Fast Five grossed an estimated $24 million (including pre-weekend screenings). According to Box Office Mojo, Fast Five out-grossed the opening weekends of the previous Fast and Furious movies in those four markets.

And finally, Thor drew an estimated $5.8 million in Australia, an amount Box Office Mojo places “on par with” that country’s opening grosses of Clash of the Titans and the first Iron Man.

Thor will quite possibly top next weekend, when it opens in most major territories the world over.

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Carlos Saldanha’s animated 3D feature Rio, featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jane Lynch, George Lopez, was indeed the top movie on the U.S. and Canada box office chart this past Easter weekend, grossing $26.3 million according to actuals found at Box Office Mojo.

Rio collected $500,000 less than estimated; even so, it was more than $1 million ahead of the no. 2 movie, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, which actually earned $700,000 less than reported on Sunday.

Overestimation, as so often happens, inflated the figures of most of the top-twelve releases. The Robert Pattinson-Reese Witherspoon-Christoph Waltz drama Water for Elephants took in $700,000 less than estimated; African Cats $400,000 less; Hop $300,000; Insidious $200,000; Soul Surfer $150,000; Scream 4 and The Conspirator $100,000; and so on.

Featuring Perry, Loretta Devine, Isaiah Mustafa, Bow Wow, Shannon Kane, and Cassi Davis, Madea’s Big Happy Family actually opened with $25.06 million.

Francis Lawrence’s period romantic drama Water for Elephants collected $16.84 million, a solid debut for an adult film – especially one with less-than-stellar reviews – even if not quite as solid as what 20th Century Fox had reported on Sunday.

Hop, starring James Marsden and the voice of Russell Brand as the rebellious son of the Easter Bunny, was the no. 4 movie, adding $12.18 million and passing the $100 million milestone on Easter Sunday. Total: $100.22 million.

Featuring Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Hayden Panettiere, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, and Emma Roberts, Wes Craven’s Scream 4 earned $7.03 million at no. 5.

Opening at a modest no. 6, Disney’s African Cats took in $6 million. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, the documentary about African felines is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

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Michael Fassbender as Rochester in Cary Joji Fukunaga's Jane Eyre
Michael Fassbender as Rochester in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre

Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, starring Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, and Kevin Kline, was down 35 percent despite the addition of 142 theaters. At no. 13, the period political drama collected $2.28 million at 849 locations for an unexciting $2,696 per-theater average according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Faring much worse was Paul Johansson’s Atlas Shrugged: Part I, which lost 48 percent of its business from last weekend even though it’s screening at 55 percent more theaters. Starring Taylor Schilling as Ayn Rand’s independent-minded heroine Dagny Taggart, Atlas Shrugged, despite its popularity among the Tea Party crowd, took in only $879,000 at 465 locations, averaging a meager $1,890 per site on its second week out.

In all likelihood, Atlas Shrugged will disappear fast – without managing to either recover its low $10 million budget or lead to parts II and III. Total after ten days: $3.09 million.

Atlas Shrugged‘s overseas box office prospects are all but nil, considering that the popularity of Ayn Rand, her philosophy, and the anti-government Tea Party movement are intrinsically American cultural phenomena.

Meanwhile, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, continues to do decent business in limited release. At 319 locations on its seventh weekend out, the latest film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic grossed $782,000, down 21 percent after the addition of 45 theaters (about 15 percent more than last weekend). Total to date: $7.91 million.

Another bit of good news: the censored PG-13-rated version of Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech flopped miserably. After four weekends, the Weinstein Company’s botched up version of their own Academy Award-winning film collected only $2.86 million.

Photo: Jane Eyre (Laurie Sparham / Focus Features)

April 24

Starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, and Tai the Elephant (as Rosie the Elephant), Francis Lawrence’s period romantic drama Water for Elephants, adapted by Richard LaGravenese from Sara Gruen’s bestseller, debuted with a stronger than expected $17.5 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Water for Elephants didn’t quite reach $20 millionas it might have – or at least gotten close – had Saturday figures not gone down nearly across the board among the top twelve movies on the chart. Even so, the film averaged $6,212 at 2,817 locations, a good initial figure for an adult drama in wide release.

Also, adult dramas tend to hold up well, especially at a time when there’s a dearth of such fare. Despite a mediocre 44 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics, the $40 million20th Century Fox release has received a solid A- rating from moviegoers, about 70 percent of whom were women and over 25.

The good performance of Water for Elephants should be particularly good news for Robert Pattinson. If estimates hold, on its first weekend Water for Elephants took in nearly as much as the $19 million Pattinson’s previous non-Twilight effort, Remember Me, grossed during its entire run last year.

Having said that, both Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz have reason to rejoice as well. On opening weekend, Water for Elephants collected more than twice the paltry $7.48 million that Witherspoon’s previous vehicle, How Do You Know, earned on its debut late last year. And the circus drama certainly performed infinitely better than Witherspoon’s previous dramatic foray, Rendition, which opened in 2007 with a dismal $4.06 million (about $4.7 million today) at 2,250 sites.

Christoph Waltz, for his part, has garnered widespread praise for his portrayal of the psychotic ringmaster. In fact, Waltz is the one cast member that could be remembered later this year when awards season kicks off. Water for Elephants thus shows that we’ll surely be seeing more of the Academy Award-winning actor.

Overseas, Water for Elephants has opened in South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, and a handful of other countries. Its biggest market has been Russia, where it pulled in $1 million. Water for Elephants’ worldwide total currently stands at $20.1 million.

At a – relatively speaking – disappointing no. 2, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, featuring Perry, Loretta Devine, Isaiah Mustafa, Bow Wow, Shannon Kane, and Cassi Davis, trailed behind Carlos Saldanha’s Rio this Easter weekend in North America, opening with $25.75 million at 2,288 theaters according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Now, that’s not a bad figure for a movie that cost a reported $25 million (not including distribution/marketing expenses). In fact, Madea’s Big Happy Family‘s $11,254 per-theater average was the highest among the top-twelve movies.

Putting things in context, however, makes Madea’s Big Happy Family seem both smaller and sadder.

Tyler Perry’s two previous Madea outings, Madea’s Family Reunion (2006) and Madea Goes to Jail (2009), opened (in February) with, respectively, $30 millionand $41 million – which would be, once again respectively, about $37 million and $44 million today. Both movies were released at 100-200 fewer theaters than Madea’s Big Happy Family.

Madea’s Family Reunion averaged $13,687 per theater (approx. $16,700 today), while Madea Goes to Jail‘s average was $20,192 (approx. $21,500 today). As mentioned above, Madea’s Big Happy Family‘s estimated per-theater average is a considerably more modest $11,254.

Even the non-Madea Perry comedy Why Did I Get Married Too, which opened on Easter weekend last year, had a stronger debut, collecting $29.28 million (about $29.7 million today) at 2,155 locations, averaging $13,591 per site.

Something else that matters: whereas Madea’s Family Reunion had a minuscule $6 million budget and Madea Goes to Jail cost a reported $17.5m, Madea’s Big Happy Family, as mentioned above, had a $25 million budget.

Also, Perry is big among African-Americans – 81 percent of the crowd that checked out Madea’s Big Happy Family this Easter weekend – but his movies tend to plummet after opening weekend, and they have no following overseas, where American movies earn on average about two-thirds of their grosses.

Hop, starring James Marsden and the voice of Russell Brand as the rebellious son of the Easter Bunny, was the no. 4 movie this Easter weekend, after Rio, Madea’s Big Happy Family, and Water for Elephants. After jumping 16 percent from the previous weekend, Hop added $12.46 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Quite appropriately, Hop passed the $100 million milestone on Easter Sunday. Total: $100.5 million. Worldwide: $147.7 million. (Hop‘s international performance has been considerably more modest than Rio‘s.) Cost: $63 million.

Featuring Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Hayden Panettiere, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, and Emma Roberts, Wes Craven’s Scream 4 plummeted this weekend, earning $7.15 million (down 62 percent) at no. 5. Total: $31.15 million. Worldwide: $49.09 million. Cost: $40 million.

Opening at a modest no. 6, Disney’s African Cats took in $6.4 million, about $1 million less than expected after its solid Friday debut. That happened because African Cats was down an alarming 49 percent on Saturday, a much worse drop-off rate than that of any other top-twelve movie on the North American box office chart.

Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, the documentary about African felines is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. African Cats’ per-theater average was a just okay $5,246 for a movie at 1,220 locations. (All things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters the higher the per-theater average should be. For comparison’s sake: at 2,817 theaters, Water for Elephants averaged $6,212 per site.)

Next in line – and holding up surprisingly well – was AnnaSophia Robb’s Soul Surfer, down only down 23 percent, with $5.6 million at no. 7. Total: $28.66 million. Cost: $18 million.

Also proving itself resilient was Patrick Wilson-Rose Byrne’s Insidious, down a mere 20 percent after bringing in $5.38 million at no. 8. Total: $44.17 million. Cost: $1.5 million (plus about $20m+ in marketing expenses).

Rounding out the top twelve were:

  • Cate Blanchett-Saoirse Ronan’s Hanna with $5.27 million (down 27.5 percent). Total: $31.71 million. Cost: $30 million.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal-Michelle Monaghan’s Source Code with $5.06 million (down 18.5 percent). Total: $44.66 million. Worldwide: $63.26 million. Cost: $32 million.
  • Russell Brand-Helen Mirren’s Arthur with $4.1 million (down 39 percent). Total: $29.25 million. Cost: $40 million.
  • Bradley Cooper-Abbie Cornish’s Limitless with $2.64 million (down 28 percent). Total: $73.98 million. Worldwide: $115.98 million. Cost: $27 million.

Carlos Saldanha’s animated 3D feature Rio, featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jane Lynch, George Lopez, and others, was the no. 1 movie at the North American box office this Easter weekend, grossing $26.8 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Rio was down only down 31.5 percent despite softer than usual figures on Saturday. Most kiddie flicks go up Saturday and hold up well on Sunday, but Rio, like many other movies on the North American chart, was down on Saturday. That may have something to do with the Easter weekend itself; last year, the same phenomenon took place among several top-twelve films as well (Clash of the Titans, Why Did I Get Married Too, Alice in Wonderland, etc.).

To date, Rio has earned $81.26 million domestically, in addition to a whopping $204.7 million internationally, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That means a grand total of $283.86 million worldwide, which makes Rio the biggest box office hit of 2011. (Paramount’s Rango is no. 2, with about $240m.) Unsurprisingly, Rio‘s top international market remains Brazil, where it added an estimated $6.7 million this weekend.

A 20th Century Fox release, Rio‘s budget was reportedly $90 million.

Partly thanks to Rio, with the assistance of Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family and the Robert Pattinson-Reese Witherspoon-Christoph Waltz drama Water for Elephants, the U.S. and Canada box office was up 38 percent compared to the same weekend last year.

Chiefly thanks to Rio‘s success throughout the week and its relatively small drop-off rate from last weekend, the domestic box office is now down 18 percent compared to last year – versus 20 percent a week ago.

It should be noted, however, that figures for the top twelve films were down 26 percent if compared to Easter weekend (April 2-4) 2010 , when Clash of the Titans opened with $61.23 million, and Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too and DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon took in more than $29 million each.

Carlos Saldanha’s Rio, featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jane Lynch, George Lopez, and others, topped the U.S. and Canada box office on Friday, April 22, grossing $10.75 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

At a – relatively speaking – disappointing no. 2, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family opened with $10.5 million. If figures hold, Madea’s Big Happy Family may reach Sunday with about $25 million, which is considerably less than Perry’s two previous Madea outings, Madea’s Family Reunion (2006) and Madea Goes to Jail (2009), which opened (in February) with, respectively, $30 millionand $41 million.

Back in 2006, Madea’s Family Reunion took in $10.46 million (about $12.79 million in 2011 dollars) on its Friday debut; Madea Goes to Jail drew $14.74 million (about $15.74 million today). Both movies opened at 100-200 fewer theaters than Madea’s Big Happy Family.

Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants, starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, and Tai the Elephant (Rosie the Elephant in the movie), debuted with $7 million, which means the period drama performed better than expected on opening day. There’s a very good chance it’ll end up in the high teens – possibly even up to $20 million – by Sunday evening. It all depends, of course, on whether Friday estimates are correct and if word-of-mouth/20th Century Fox’s marketing machine are good enough to increase Water for Elephants’ box office momentum on Saturday before the inevitable Sunday drop.

Regardless of their religious preference, if any, 20th Century Fox executives apparently will have reason to rejoice this Easter weekend: both Carlos Saldanha’s animated 3D feature Rio and the Francis Lawrence-directed period drama Water for Elephants, starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz, are performing above expectations.

April 22

The animated 3D feature Rio topped the North American box office for the seventh straight day on Thursday, April 21, grossing an estimated $4.15 million according to Box Office Mojo. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, Rio features the voices of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Rodrigo Santoro, Jane Lynch, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann, Jamie Foxx, and George Lopez.

Whether Rio will top the box office this Easter weekend remains unclear. Rio has been holding up remarkably well overseas – it actually sold more tickets on its second weekend in the United Kingdom than on its first – and its domestic weekday take has been quite impressive. Rio, in fact, passed the $50 million milestone on Wednesday. Yet, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family opened today. So, it all depends on whether Perry’s fans have gotten tired of watching him in drag.

The two previous Madea outings generated $30 millionand $41 million on their opening weekends. Some box office pundits are expecting this third installment to bring in about $30 million. Rio could land anywhere between $20m-$28 million.

Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants, starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, and Tai the Elephant (Rosie the Elephant in the movie), will probably have a decent, though unremarkable debut. Reviews for Water for Elephants have been mixed, while non-Twilight Saga Pattinson, non-Legally Blonde Witherspoon, and non-Inglourious Basterds Waltz aren’t exactly major box office attractions. In other words, the box office crown will go to either Perry or parrots.

Box-office clairvoyants are expecting Water for Elephants to collect anywhere between $12m-$18 million at no. 3. Unless, that is, Hop rises for Easter; in that case, the Pattinson-Witherspoon-Waltz period melodrama would open at no. 4.


Robert Pattinson Water for Elephants image: David James / 20th Century Fox / Regency.

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5 comments

bargal20 -

What the hell did they need to censor from The King’s Speech to make it PG-13?

Reply
flower -

the movie was pretty but lacked fire! the actors looked good but where was their passion?

Reply
chloe -

I recommend for every one to watch Water For Elephants it is a very good move! And Rob is amazingly gorgeous and he is very good in every scene!! Go and see WFE

Reply
faiza464 -

MY doughter,my son and I watched water for elephant and we all loved it. About ROB he was very good in every scene and I recommend for every one to watch WFE it is a very good move at the end people were applauding.go see it to bleave.

Reply
Betty b -

Wow.. You dotted every I and crossed every T. You gave facts not assumptions. Let me tell you , I have read some good reviews, but yours is unbiased and refreshing. Thanks

Btw, WFE is really a great movie, I hope they start making great movies like WFE . I enjoyed the entire cast:) especially Tia the elephant.

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