‘Wimpy Kid’ rules box office with US$24.4 million opening weekend

By David Germain, AP

LOS ANGELES A wimpy kid has delivered a knockout punch to a band of warrior vixens at the weekend box office. The 20th Century Fox family sequel “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” debuted as the No. 1 movie with US$24.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The girl-power action fantasy “Sucker Punch,” released by Warner Bros., opened at No. 2 with US$19 million. The previous weekend’s top movie, Relativity Media’s sci-fi thriller “Limitless,” slipped to third with US$15.2 million, raising its total to US$41.3 million. “Rodrick Rules” did a bit more business than its predecessor, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” which opened a year ago with US$22.1 million. The “Wimpy Kid” movies are based on the children’s books by Jeff Kinney about a timid youth trying to cope at school and home. The sequel casts wimpy kid Greg (Zachary Gordon) into sibling rivalry and bonding with one of his chief tormentors, older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick). Though its main characters are boys, the movie drew family crowds of both sexes, said Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston.

The appeal of the story is in the title, he said. “’Wimpy,’ because every kid knows that feeling. That’s why ‘Spider-Man’ works. Everybody thinks that they could be the outsider who could be Spider-Man,” Livingston said. “I think anyone can associate with that, and I think that’s why we got fathers, mothers and young people, male and female.” “Sucker Punch,” from director Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”), follows the adventures of a group of young women (Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish and Vanessa Hudgens among them) who escape a mental hospital into a fantasy realm of dragon slaying, samurai combat and battles with zombie soldiers. While the “Wimpy Kid” sequel and “Sucker Punch” combined to deliver more than US$40 million in revenue, Hollywood’s long box-office dry spell continued. Overall business totaled US$120 million, down 7 percent from the same weekend last year, when “How to Train Your Dragon” debuted at No. 1 with US$43.7 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com. Domestic revenues this year are dragging at US$2.2 billion, a 19 percent drop from 2010, whose first quarter was unusually strong because of big business from 2009 holdover “Avatar” and a few other hits. Business was so-so for the rest of 2010, with movie-ticket sales sagging during the summer and holidays, the two periods that account for about 60 percent of Hollywood’s annual theatrical revenue. Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian said he expects the opposite to occur this year. He predicts Hollywood will have a strong summer that will offset this year’s weak start, with studios potentially rebounding to haul in record revenue for the year. “This is a big downturn, but I think summer is on the way to save the day with some really big titles,” Dergarabedian said. “I’ll take a strong summer and fall and holiday over a strong first quarter any day.”