‘The Croods’ Tops Box Office, Taps Thirst for Animatiion

“The Croods,” the first major animation film of the year, opened as No. 1 in U.S. and Canadian theaters, with $43.6 million in sales for DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and its distributor, Twentieth Century Fox.

“Olympus Has Fallen,” a thriller about terrorism from the independent distributor FilmDistrict, opened in second place with revenue of $30.4 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. The Tina Fey comedy “Admission,” from Universal Pictures’ Focus Features, opened fifth with sales of $6.2 million.

The three movies offered fans a broad range of new options heading into the Easter holiday in the U.S., when schools are on break. Weekend sales trailed a year ago, when “The Hunger Games” led sales. “The Croods” is one of two films this year from DreamWorks Animation, the Glendale, California-based studio that produced the “Shrek” and “Madagascar” series.

“‘Croods’ is an important film for DreamWorks as they try to re-establish some momentum,” said Paul Sweeney, an analyst with Bloomberg Industries, in a telephone interview. “They’re looking to ideally start a new franchise and, I’m not sure if this going to be a franchise, but it certainly had a solid opening weekend.”

Stone Age

“The Croods” features a prehistoric family that’s forced to flee its cave after a disaster. The film features the voices of Nicolas Cage and Emma Stone. Cage plays the caveman father who leads his clan to safety.

Weekend forecasts for “The Croods,” produced at a cost of about $135 million, according to the company, ranged from $39 million at Box Office Guru to $45 million at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, which recommends buying DreamWorks Animation shares. Fox is a unit of News Corp.

“Olympus Has Fallen,” directed by Antoine Fuqua, features Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent saving America from a band of North Korean commandos, who capture the White House, shoot up Washington and then threaten the president and his defense secretary.

The film was expected to take in $22.5 million in weekend sales, the forecast at BoxOffice.com. Aaron Eckhart co-stars as the president and Melissa Leo plays his defense secretary. The film also features Rick Yune as the guerrilla leader Kang and Morgan Freeman as the speaker of the House.

Teen Prodigy

“It came in stronger than expected,” Sweeney said. “It’s one of those that can build off a good solid opening weekend through word-of-mouth and can play for several weeks, especially if there’s no direct competition coming in.”

In “Admission,” Fey plays a Princeton University admissions officer who’s recruiting students from an alternative high school. She comes across a teen prodigy that may be the child she gave up for adoption years earlier.

Paul Rudd plays Fey’s former college classmate who runs the alternative high school. The film was expected to take in $8.4 million, according to BoxOffice.com.

Among returning films, Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” fell to third place with sales of $21.6 million after two weeks leading domestic theatrical revenue.

“Oz” stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, a circus con artist whose hot-air balloon is blown to that magical land by a tornado. He gets tangled in a conflict involving three witches that will determine the future of Oz. The film also features Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams.

‘The Call’

The movie, directed by Sam Raimi, has taken in $177.1 million since opening on March 8.

“The Call” fell to fourth from second, collecting $8.9 million in revenue. Halle Berry plays an emergency-services dispatcher who gets a call from a teenage girl who has just been abducted. The Sony Corp. film also features Abigail Breslin and Michael Imperioli.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 36 percent to $130 million from the year-earlier weekend, Hollywood.com said. Sales this year are down 13 percent to $2.06 billion. Attendance is down 14 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for March 22 to March 24.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
 1 THE CROODS         $43.6    4,046  $10,786   --    $43.6    1
 2 OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN  30.4    3,098    9,804   --     30.4    1
 3 OZ THE GREAT        21.6    3,805    5,669  -48    177.1    3
 4 THE CALL             8.9    2,507    3,550  -48     31.1    2
 5 ADMISSION            6.2    2,160    2,850   --      6.2    1
 6 SPRING BREAKERS      4.9    1,104    4,401  1,747    5.3    2
 7 BURT WONDERSTONE     4.3    3,160    1,368  -58     17.4    2
 8 JACK THE GIANT       2.9    2,560    1,152  -53     59.0    4
 9 IDENTITY THIEF       2.6    2,166    1,195  -41    127.8    7
10 SNITCH               1.9    1,807    1,043  -46     40.3    5
11 SILVER LININGS       1.6    1,044    1,518  -37    127.2   19
12 SAFE HAVEN           1.1    1,279      890  -54     68.9    6

Top 12 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $130.0 $203.8 -36

Year-to-date Revenue

2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $2,055 $2,364 -13 Year-to-date Attendance: -14%
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