‘Peabody’ Tops Box Office as Video-Game Film Disappoints

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” rose to the top of the box office in its second week, as the video-game adaptation “Need for Speed” fell short of estimates.

“Mr. Peabody” generated $21.8 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, rising one spot from its debut a week earlier, Rentrak Corp. said today in a statement. The film was forecast to earn $20 million, according to BoxOffice.com. “Need for Speed,” starring Aaron Paul from TV’s “Breaking Bad,” took third with $17.8 million, missing a $23 million estimate.

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” created by DreamWorks Animation SKG and distributed by 21st Century Fox Inc., held its audience better than competitors as some schools began letting students out for spring break. “Need for Speed,” based on the popular video-game franchise, was done in by poor reviews and the failure of its targeted audience to turn up in force.

“The youngest audiences have been hardest to predict and most distracted,” said Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios, which released the film. “The hottest segment for this film was the youngest and they didn’t show up in numbers that we would have expected or liked, which is disappointing.”

Only 23 percent of critics surveyed by aggregator RottenTomatoes.com wrote positive reviews of “Need for Speed.” Filmgoers under 18 who saw the film liked it, Hollis said. He said the overseas response was encouraging, notably in China, where the movie registered the biggest March opening on Imax Corp. large-format screens, and drew an estimated $21 million total in its opening weekend in the country.

Negative Reviews

“Need for Speed” was made for an estimated $66 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It was produced by DreamWorks Studios, which is separate from the animation company and releases its movies through Walt Disney Co. The film follows a street racer, fresh from prison, who joins a cross-country race with revenge in mind for a former associate.

“It’s no ‘Fast & Furious,’” wrote Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey. “In trying for the vicarious varoom of the street-racing video game that inspired it ... ‘Speed’ clocks in at a long two-plus hours and falls painfully short.”

Ticket sales for “Mr. Peabody,” about the time-traveling adventures of a dog and his adopted son, declined 32 percent from its first weekend, compared with a 57 percent drop for “300: Rise of an Empire.” That film, from Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., fell to second from first with $19.2 million.

‘Staying Power’

“Mr. Peabody,” targeted for families, opened with $32.2 million in its first weekend, below the $43.6 million opening of DreamWorks Animation’s March entry last year, “The Croods.” Made for $145 million, “Peabody” has grossed $63.8 million domestically in two weeks, revenue that is split with theaters.

“Family-friendly movies have strong staying power,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst with BoxOffice.com. “It’s a good sign that word of mouth is helping ‘Peabody.’”

Also making its debut was “Tyler Perry’s the Single Moms Club,” which had a disappointing weekend, coming in fifth place with $8.1 million for distributor Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

The film, about five women from varied backgrounds who are thrown together to organize a school fundraiser, was forecast to gross $16 million by BoxOffice.com. It stars Perry, Nia Long and Cocoa Brown.

The weekend also featured Warner Bros.’ release of “Veronica Mars,” a movie funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

Access Complaints

Creator Rob Thomas raised $5.7 million to make the movie, which is based on the TV show. The film generated $2 million in revenue in limited release, and was also available online.

Some contributors to the campaign, promised digital copies of the movie, complained about accessing it on Warner Bros.’ Flixster site. That prompted Thomas to post a note to fans, addressing the problems.

While most “Veronica Mars” backers had a successful experience, Warner Bros. is offering refunds to those who want to download the film on a different platform, such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes or Amazon.com Inc., the distributor said.

Revenue for the top 10 films rose 6.3 percent to $98.6 million from a year earlier, according to Rentrak. So far in 2014, domestic ticket sales have increased 8.8 percent to $2.02 billion.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for March 14 to March 16.

                     Rev.  Pct.               Avg./  Total
Movie               (mln)  Chg. Theaters   Theater (mln)  Wks
1 MR. PEABODY        $21.8  -32   3,951   $5,520    $63.8   2
2 300: RISE EMPIRE    19.2  -57   3,490    5,502     78.4   2
3 NEED FOR SPEED      17.8   --   3,115    5,729     17.8   1
4 NON-STOP            10.6  -33   3,183    3,335     68.8   3
5 SINGLE MOMS CLUB     8.1   --   1,896    4,259      8.1   1
6 THE LEGO MOVIE       7.7  -29   3,040    2,533    236.9   6
7 SON OF GOD           5.5  -47   2,990    1,849     51.0   3
8 GRAND BUDAPEST       3.6  348      66   55,122      4.8   2
9 FROZEN               2.1  -27   1,466    1,465    396.4  17
10 MONUMENTS MEN       2.1  -33   1,594    1,294     73.9   6

Top 10 Films Grosses:
   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
     $98.6         $92.8       +6.3

Year-to-date Revenue:

     2014          2013
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $2,022         $1,858      +8.8

Source: Rentrak Corp.
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