Easter victory for ‘G.I. Joe’ at box office

By Nicole Sperling/The Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — The box office for the 2013 Easter weekend was carried on the brawny shoulders of Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” handily won the weekend with a three-day gross of $41.2 million and a four-day take of $51.7 million, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures.

Also aiding the weekend’s totals was the animated family-friendly film “The Croods” from DreamWorks Animation, which pulled in $26.5 million in its second weekend in release. Distributed by 20th Century Fox, the 3-D caveman flick dropped only 39 percent, for a two-week total of an estimated $88.6 million.

Meanwhile, Tyler Perry continued his solid track record at the box office, grossing an estimated $22.3 million for his film “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor,” which centers on a love triangle gone wrong and features the stunt casting of Kim Kardashian. The other new wide release, Open Road’s “The Host,” wasn’t able to capitalize on “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer’s brand, her first non-”Twilight” property disappointing with only an estimated $11 million in ticket sales.

Despite the impressive debut of “G.I. Joe” from director Jon Chu (“Step Up 3D”), total ticket sales were up less than 1 percent compared with last year at this time, which wasn’t Easter weekend, according to Hollywood.com. Receipts are down 12 percent for the year, and attendance is off 13 percent, according to the box-office tracker.

Paramount’s gamble of delaying the release of “G.I. Joe” from last summer to allow extra time to convert it into 3-D appears to have paid off. Internationally, the movie has earned an additional $80.3 million, making it the biggest international opening of the year, according to Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of domestic marketing and distribution. It’s performed particularly well in Russia, grossing $11 million, while South Korea and Mexico each did $6 million.

The $130 million action film — financed by Paramount, MGM and Skydance — was well liked by audiences, primarily young men, who assigned it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. It’s the second-highest Easter weekend grosser, behind 2010’s “Clash of the Titans,” which opened to $61 million despite being maligned by critics for its hasty 3-D conversion.

Paramount delayed the release of “G.I. Joe” for the same reason, but a combination of time and improved technology rendered the post-production 3-D conversion conversation obsolete.

Said Colligan of the conversion: “It’s a painstaking process to do correctly, but when it is, it’s a very satisfying experience. It’s also important that you conceive of things in 3-D going into it and Jon did. There are a lot of action set pieces that lent itself to be amplified in 3-D.”

“Temptation” marks Perry’s ninth directorial effort to debut with a gross of more than $20 million and the second film from the multi-hyphenate to not feature his cross-dressing character Madea. Made for $20 million, “Temptation” stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell as a restless married woman lured by a tech-rich playboy. Released by Lionsgate, the film received an A-minus from CinemaScore from Perry’s typical audience, women 25 and older, despite poor reviews. The studio has distributed 14 films by Perry, with a cumulative gross of $700 million over the last eight years.

“The Host,” from writer-director Andrew Niccol (“Gattaca”), didn’t fare well with critics or audiences. Starring Saoirse Ronan as a girl battling with a foreign body inside her, the film was lampooned by critics and earned a B-minus with audiences. Following in “Beautiful Creatures’” footsteps, the film marks the second ill-fated attempt in the last two months to corral the “Twilight”/”Hunger Games” audience with fare based on popular young-adult novels.