By The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Movie fans are going to “Rio” in big numbers, but they’re not quite screaming over the latest installment of a horror-comedy franchise.
The 20th Century Fox animated family flick “Rio,” featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg, led the weekend box office with a healthy $40 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.
It was the best debut so far this year, topping another animated comedy, “Rango,” by about $2 million.
The slasher comedy “Scream 4,” released by the Weinstein Co. banner Dimension Films, opened at No. 2 with just $19.3 million. That’s a fraction of the business for the previous two sequels, which both debuted at over $30 million more than a decade ago.
Business finally climbed for Hollywood, which has been in a prolonged slide. Revenues rose for only the second time since last November, coming in at $134 million, up 12 percent compared to the same weekend last year, when “Kick-Ass” led with $19.8 million.
“I’m going to be so bold as to say this may be the beginning of the turnaround,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “Summer’s almost here and it’s the most important movie-going season. It couldn’t be coming at a better time.”
After two weekends in the No. 1 spot, Russell Brand’s Easter bunny tale “Hop” slipped to third-place with $11.2 million. Released by Universal, “Hop” raised its total to $82.6 million.
The weekend’s other new wider release, director Robert Redford’s Lincoln-assassination drama “The Conspirator,” premiered at No. 9 with $3.9 million. The movie stars Robin Wright and James McAvoy in a courtroom tale of a woman accused of aiding Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Released by Roadside Attractions, “The Conspirator” played in narrower release of 707 theaters, roughly one-fifth the cinema count for the weekend’s top three movies.
“Rio” opened well above Fox studio expectations. A tale of romance and smuggling involving rare birds, “Rio” opened overseas a week earlier and has climbed to a $168 million total worldwide.
“It’s working in every country on the planet,” said Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston. “It’s G-rated, which means it’s for everybody.”
With many children out of school over the next week leading into Easter, “Rio” has solid playing time ahead of it, Livingston said.
Receipts for “Scream 4″ came in a bit under industry expectations and well below the $30-million-plus openings for “Scream 2″ and “Scream 3.”
“Would we have liked to have done more? Yeah, absolutely, but I don’t think anyone was expecting $30 million,” said Erik Lomis, head of distribution for the Weinstein Co. “But I think it’s a solid opening, particularly given how the films have been performing lately in the marketplace. R-rated films have been having a tougher time.”
“Scream 4″ reunites the stars of the original three movies — Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette — and adds new young cast members including Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin.
The movie hurls the cast into a fresh blood fest as bodies pile up in a manner mimicking events of the first movie.
An 11-year hiatus since “Scream 3″ may have created a disconnect between the franchise and the typically young horror crowd. Just 54 percent of the audience was under 25, a segment that typically accounts for about 75 percent of horror fans, Lomis said.
Weinstein executives are hoping word of mouth among those younger viewers will bring in new fans and carry the movie along in the coming weeks. That’s what happened with the original “Scream,” which opened with just $6.4 million in 1996 but became a $100 million word-of-mouth hit.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. “Rio,” $40 million.
2. “Scream 4,” $19.3 million.
3. “Hop,” $11.2 million.
4. “Soul Surfer,” $7.4 million.
5. “Hanna,” $7.3 million.
6. “Arthur,” $6.94 million.
7. “Insidious,” $6.9 million.
8. “Source Code,” $6.3 million.
9. “The Conspirator,” $3.92 million.
10. “Your Highness,” $3.9 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.