Four new releases assembled at the North American box office but none had the strength to unseat the hit comedy Think Like A Man from the number one spot. The last weekend of April is usually a dumping ground for films with uncertain commercial appeal and this year studios used the frame to jettison its late-spring waste before heading into what should be a red hot summer season. All four new films failed to reach a $4,000 average and the three R-rated pics do not look to have much of a future.

Despite the parade of new titles on display, moviegoers made the battle-of-the-sexes comedy Think Like a Man number one for a second straight weekend thanks to an estimated $18M in ticket sales representing a 47% decline from the surprisingly potent opening. The Sony release is still playing in only 2,015 locations so its average of $8,933 was once again spectacular. In fact, the only films all year to post better sophomore weekend averages were The Hunger Games and The Lorax which just happen to be the top grossing films of 2012. Budgeted at only $12M, Man has now grossed a terrific $60.9M after just ten days and seems headed for a $90-100M domestic finish which would be about eight times the production cost.

Four films followed in a very tight range with estimates putting them within $243,000 of each other. Since studio estimates include only a guess at what Sunday sales will be, final numbers to be reported on Monday could see some movies change in the rankings.

Opening in second place with a respectable performance was the claymation-style toon The Pirates! Band of Misfits with an estimated $11.4M from 3,358 theaters for a mild $3,395 average. The PG-rated British film played to younger children and their parents (76% of the audience) and earned strong reviews too. With hardly anything else out right now for that demographic, Pirates carved out a nice audience for itself even though the numbers were far from big. But good word-of-mouth and a lack of direct competition could keep the loot coming in for weeks to come. Violent early summer tentpoles like The Avengers, Battleship, and Men in Black 3 are sure to attracts millions of kids, but all three are PG-13 titles so studios have nothing aimed at younger children until Madagascar 3 on June 8 creating a huge opportunity for Sony. Budgeted at just under $60M, Pirates has already grossed $63.7M from its international runs over the past few weeks for a worldwide total to date of $75.1M for the Hugh Grant-voiced pic.

Falling 50% on its second weekend, the Zac Efron romance vehicle The Lucky One followed with an estimated $11.3M bumping the ten-day total up to a solid $39.9M. Warner Bros. may find its way to about $60M or so. The Hunger Games, 2012’s biggest blockbuster so far, smashed the $600M global mark and continued to display incredible legs in North America. Katniss and company collected an estimated $11.3M this weekend domestically dipping a mere 23% which was the smallest decline yet in its six-week run. The Lionsgate hit has now amassed a towering $372.5M putting it at number 17 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of the $370.3M of 2004’s The Passion of the Christ. The $400M domestic mark now looks reachable, although how much Avengers obliterates its competitors starting next weekend will be a factor. Overseas, Games grossed an estimated $7.4M upping the international cume to $228.5M and the worldwide sum to $601M with domestic accounting for a very high 62%.

A trio of new R-rated films debuted in the next three spots all generating lukewarm averages between $3,000 and $4,000. The relationship comedy The Five-Year Engagement starring Jason Segal and Emily Blunt bowed to an estimated $11.2M playing to an adult female audience. Universal’s $30M production averaged $3,800 from 2,936 locations and earned mixed but decent reviews from film critics. Audiences were not too pleased with what they paid to see as the CinemaScore grade was a disappointing B-. According to studio research, a high 64% of the crowd was female and 57% was 30 and older. Serving as the opening night film for the Tribeca Film Festival last week got it some extra press, but didn’t seem to translate into much of a national bump. Engagement scored an opening weekend average that was not much higher than Wanderlust’s, the studio’s other R-rated couples comedy from this year.

Jason Statham’s latest action offering Safe landed in sixth place with an estimated $7.7M opening. Averaging only $3,407 from 2,266 theaters, the R-rated pic came in on the lower end of the action star’s usual range and matched up with debuts for Crank: High Voltage and Killer Elite which premiered to $7M and $9.4M, respectively. Reviews were mixed and the usual crowd of young men made up the primary audience.

Audiences weren’t too interested in seeing John Cusack play Edgar Allan Poe as the gothic thriller The Raven debuted in seventh with an estimated $7.3M for a weak $3,291 average from 2,203 locations. The R-rated mystery got slammed by critics which had a big impact since it skewed to an older audience. Exit polls showed that 59% of the audience was 25 and over while the gender split was more even with 52% being male. Moviegoers were just somewhat satisfied with what they saw as the CinemaScore was only a B. Produced for $26M, the Relativity release did not have the starpower or critical support to draw a large audience and the road ahead will be tough.

Disney’s latest nature doc Chimpanzee fell 49% in its second frame to an estimated $5.5M putting the ten-day cume at a solid $19.2M. Look for a final tally of around $30M which would easily beat out the performances of the studio’s last two Earth Day releases African Cats and Oceans. The comedy The Three Stooges took in an estimated $5.4M, off 45%, for a mild $37.1M cume. Rounding out the top ten was the horror flick The Cabin in the Woods which dropped 44% to an estimated $4.5M giving Lionsgate $34.7M to date.

Overseas, where studios are increasingly taking advantage of local holiday opportunities and different school calendars to launch summer action tentpoles before the United States, the box office witnessed a mammoth start for the super hero extravaganza The Avengers which amassed an estimated $178.4M from openings across 39 markets since Wednesday. Number one everywhere, Iron Man and pals broke the all-time opening weekend records in over a dozen territories including Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong, and New Zealand. Leading the way were the U.K. with $24.7M, Australia with $19.7M, Mexico with $15.9M, and Korea with $12.9M. The global assault was espcially impressive as the 3D epic did not include the action-loving markets of China and Russia which open with North America next weekend or Japan which opens in August. The cast has been touring the world in recent weeks selling its new comic book juggernaut at red carpet premieres and press junkets in Moscow, London, Beijing, Rome, and Berlin aimed at heating up sales. The PR investment has been paying off and with such lucrative markets yet to open, The Avengers now looks on course to possibly break the $1 billion worldwide mark for Marvel and its owner Disney.

Also making its mark on the international marketplace, Universal’s Battleship took in an estimated $22.5M in its third weekend upping the overseas tally to $170M with one-third coming from China, Russia, and Japan. The studio tried to get in as much business as it could in each country before the arrival of Avengers. Domestically, the big-budget war-at-sea flick opens two weeks after the super heroes on May 18. Rival boat flick Titanic 3D pulled in $18.5M cruising to $260.9M international and $317.2M worldwide. The lifetime totals for the iceberg smash have now reached $657.1M domestically and $2.16 billion globally.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $93.5M which was down 33% from last when Fast Five kickstarted the summer season early opening to $86.2M; but up 6% from 2010 when A Nightmare on Elm Street bowed at number one with $32.9M.

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This weekend, proving for the umpteenth time that African American casts can bring in the big bucks, Sony’s Think Like a Man exploded into the top spot at the box office while the romance of The Lucky One debuted solidly in second. Both films knocked 4-time champ The Hunger Games from the top slot.

Based on the bestselling book by Steve Harvey, Think Like a Man dominated the box office with a stellar $33M opening this weekend, according to estimates, for a powerful $16,377 per screen average. Starring Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart and Taraji P. Henson (amongst others), the film managed to make back its entire production budget (approximately $12M) in its first day in theaters. The industry should no longer be surprised when a film starring a primarily African American cast proves successful at the box office, but instead should be asking why more of them aren’t made. There is obviously a large audience ready to devour these films. Reviews were mixed but audiences dug what they saw, giving the film an A grade at CinemaScore. This was also the fourth number one film of the year for Sony, following Underworld: Awakening, The Vow and 21 Jump Street.

Debuting in second place was the latest film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, The Lucky One which brought in an estimated $22.8M this weekend, for a per screen average of $7,228. As expected, the film played mostly to young women, with an audience breakdown of 76% female, and 52% under the age of 25. Reviews were mostly poor, but people who are suckers for romance didn’t care as the film garnered a CinemaScore grade of a B+.

Making it a book-to-film trifecta, following its four-week reign at the top — the first film since Avatar to do that — the spring juggernaut The Hunger Games continued to pull in solid business by sliding only 31% to an estimated $14.5M in its fifth round. The Lionsgate smash upped its cume to a staggering $356.9M allowing Katniss and pals to rise up to number 19 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of the $352.4M of last summer’s 3D threequel Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The next films to fall to the icy stare of Katniss will be Jurassic Park ($357M), and then Jesus himself in The Passion of the Christ ($370.8M).

Disney’s yearly Earth Day documentary Chimpanzee opened nicely at number four this weekend with an estimated $10.2M. The film opened higher than the Earth Day films from the past three years which included Earth in 2009 ($8.8M opening/$32M total), 2010’s Oceans ($6M/$19.4M) and last year’s African Cats ($6M/$15.4M). I fully expect next year for Disney to hit their pinnacle with a documentary on puppies and kittens putting the past behind them and living together in harmony.

The Three Stooges stumbled to fifth place dropping 46% to an estimated $9M giving Fox $29M after ten days. Look for a final gross in the $45M range for Larry, Moe and Curly (but not Shemp). Falling 47% in its sophomore round was the horror flick The Cabin in the Woods with an estimated $7.7M for a $27M ten-day cume for Lionsgate. Look for a finale in the $40M range. Universal’s comedy fourquel American Reunion collected an estimated $5.2M, off 50%, and has lifted its tally to $48M, which is about what American Pie 2 made in its opening weekend nearly 11 years ago.

James Cameron’s Titanic 3D fell a steep 58% to an estimated $5M and has collected $53M for Paramount during this run. Somehow I don’t imagine Cameron or the studio feel too badly about the dip as the lifetime total now stands at $653M. Sony’s hit comedy 21 Jump Street fared well again dropping only 30% to an estimated $4.6M for an impressive $127M take to date. The stylish fairy tale adventure Mirror Mirror declined by 40% grossing an estimated $4.1M for a $55M sum.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $116M which was up 1.6% from last when Rio stayed in the top spot with $26.3M; and up 35.6% from 2010 when How To Train Your Dragon reclaimed number one with $15.4M in its fifth frame.

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This week at the movies, we’ve got a picture-perfect romance (The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling), relationship advice (Think Like a Man, starring Michael Ealy and Meagan Good), and a curious little monkey (Disneynature’s Chimpanzee, narrated by Tim Allen). What do the critics have to say?



The Lucky One

20%

At this point, we know what we’re getting from a film based on a Nicholas Sparks novel: syrupy romance and melodramatic plot twists. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, and critics say The Lucky One has moments of escapism, but it’s ultimately hampered by an overabundance of schmaltzy clichés. Zac Efron stars as a Marine serving in Iraq who finds a photo of an unknown woman in the desert, which he carries with him until the end of his tour of duty and seems to bring him good luck. Upon returning to the States, he treks across the country to find her, and passion ensues. The pundits say The Lucky One is occasionally swoony, but it’s also seriously contrived and formulaic — in other words, it’s pretty similar to other Sparks adaptations.



Think Like a Man

54%

Sometimes an excellent cast can elevate even the most shopworn material. Case in point: Think Like a Man, which critics say would be a pretty mediocre romantic comedy if not for the combined efforts of its players. Based upon Steve Harvey’s self-help tome Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, the film follows four guys (including Michael Ealy and Kevin Hart) whose love interests have treated them differently after reading the book. As a result, the guys decide to scour its contents for advice on how to turn the tables on the ladies (whose ranks include Meagan Good, Regina Hall, and Taraji P. Henson). The pundits say the script is pretty generic, but the actors give it their all, and the result is a pretty funny take on modern romance.



Chimpanzee

76%

Since 2009, Disneynature has celebrated Earth Day with a feature length nature documentary. This year’s selection is Chimpanzee, and critics say it’s a remarkably intimate look at our primate friends – though it’s sometimes over reliant on heavy-handed narration. Chimpanzee is the story of Oscar, a young chimp growing up within an extended family; when things take a dark turn for the little ape, he gets support from an unexpected source. The pundits say Chimpanzee often anthropomorphizes its subjects, but the footage is so amazing — and the chimps are so cute — that you and your family probably won’t mind too much. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down some of cinema’s most memorable chimp movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Day He Arrives, a dramedy about a washed-up filmmaker wandering around Seoul and meeting up with old friends, is at 100 percent.
  • Marley, a documentary on the life and music of reggae’s greatest star, is at 96 percent.
  • Oki’s Movie, about a woman who documents climbing a mountain twice — each time with a different boyfriend — is at 86 percent.
  • Inside Hana’s Suitcase, a doc about the search for information regarding a mysterious suitcase delivered to the Tokyo Holocaust Museum, is at 73 percent.
  • Downtown Express, a drama about a Russian classical violinist whose life changes when he meets an attractive singer-songwriter, is at 71 percent.
  • The Eye of the Storm, starring Charlotte Rampling and Geoffrey Rush in a drama about the children of a dying woman dealing with her negative influence, is at 68 percent.
  • To the Arctic, a doc that follows a family of polar bears through a changing environment, is at 67 percent.
  • The French import Goodbye First Love, a drama about a young woman still profoundly affected by a teenage romance, is at 65 percent.
  • Fightville, a doc about the world of minor league mixed martial arts, is at 50 percent.
  • The Moth Diaries, a horror film about a grieving young woman who suspects one of her classmates is a vampire, is at 20 percent.
  • Darling Companion, starring Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline in a dramedy about an aging couple who rekindle the spark in their relationship while caring for a rescued dog, is at 10 percent (check out director Lawrence Kasdan’s Five Favorite Films here).

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