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'Hunger Games' slaps 'Stooges' silly

The fantasy epic starring Jennifer Lawrence remains No. 1 at the box office for the fourth straight week, tripping up the debuting slapstick comedy.

April 16, 2012|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen, left, and Liam Hemsworth portrays Gale Hawthorne in a scene from "The Hunger Games."
Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen, left, and Liam Hemsworth… (Lionsgate )

"The Hunger Games"claimed the No. 1 spot at the box office for the fourth consecutive weekend, becoming the first film since 2009's"Avatar"to remain in the top position for that long.

The fantasy epic starring Jennifer Lawrence collected an additional $21.5 million this past weekend, according to an estimate from Lionsgate. In the United States and Canada, the movie has raked in $337.1 million; overseas, it has sold $194-million worth of tickets in 60 foreign countries.

Heading into the weekend, a new spin on "The Three Stooges"had the only viable shot at taking down the wildly popular Suzanne Collins adaptation. Although the trio of goofballs may not have been able to pick off Katniss Everdeen, their film did pull in a decent $17.1 million.

Meanwhile, the Joss Whedon-produced horror film "The Cabin in the Woods" started with a so-so $14.9 million. The sci-fi action flick"Lockout" had a far less impressive opening, grossing a weak $6.3 million.

"Stooges" marks the best debut for the brother-directors team of Bobby and Peter Farrelly in more than a decade. After finding major box-office success in the early 1990s with films such as "Dumb & Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary," the filmmakers have struggled to attract moviegoers to their recent efforts. None of their last four films, including "Stuck on You" and"Hall Pass," opened with over $15 million or ultimately exceeded $45 million. Although "Stooges" should exceed that sum, it's unlikely that the movie will come close to reaching the heights of "Mary," which made $176 million by the end of its run in theaters.

The Farrellys have been working on "Stooges" for over a decade, and during that time big-name stars such as Jim Carrey and Sean Penn were at points attached to the movie. Ultimately, the roles of Moe, Larry and Curly went to three lesser-known actors, the most recognizable of whom is Sean Hayes from TV's "Will & Grace."

Those who saw the film this past weekend didn't love it, assigning it an average grade of B-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Even if word-of-mouth on the movie doesn't end up being fantastic, 20th Century Fox didn't spend much to produce the film: $37 million, after purchasing the rights to the production from MGM, where the picture was previously in development.

Not surprisingly, the movie attracted a 58% male crowd — the gender Fox has been heavily courting for weeks in advertisements on sports networks such as ESPN. Chris Aronson, Fox's executive vice president of distribution, said the studio consciously targeted men because "dumb, slapstick humor is male-driven stateside, and we've always known there was a barrier with females."

"The Cabin in the Woods" also appealed mostly to men and i played best with an older crowd, 65% of whom were older than 25 — not the typical audience for a horror film. But those moviegoers didn't care for the film, giving it an average C grade. Many critics were enamored by the horror movie, indicating that the marketing campaign may have led fans to believe the film would be different than the one they got in theaters. Lionsgate's president of distribution, Richie Fay, disagreed with that sentiment, blaming the mediocre grade on "who is collecting the information" for CinemaScore.

Originally an MGM project, "Cabin" centers around a group of friends vacationing in a remote cabin when eerie things begin to transpire. The movie was supposed to come out in 2009, but MGM's bankruptcy proceedings held up the process. Lionsgate acquired the movie's worldwide rights for $18 million in May 2011 and has since sold off the international markets.

Playing in about 1,000 fewer theaters than the weekend's other wide releases, "Lockout" failed to resonate with audiences, also garnering a B- in CinemaScore. The movie, starring Guy Pearce as a man trying to rescue the president's daughter from space, appealed to a 65% male contingent.

The movie was made by filmmaker Luc Besson's EurupaCorp for about $20 million and was acquired by FilmDistrict. The film was distributed by Open Road Films, the joint venture between theater chains AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment.

Meanwhile, the sci-fi action flick "Battleship" got off to a solid start overseas this past weekend, grossing $58 million in 26 foreign countries. That sounds good — until you compare it with the receipts for "Titanic 3D," which has collected that much in China alone.

Indeed, the revamped version of James Cameron's 1997 classic posted the biggest opening of all time in China, surpassing the $55-million debut of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" last year. The film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet dominated at the international box office this weekend, raking in $88.2 million from 69 foreign markets and bringing its total abroad to $146.5 million, according to distributor 20th Century Fox.

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