It took a "Wimpy Kid" to stare down this big, punishing 2011 box office.
The second film adaptation of Jeff Kinney's popular kiddie-book series grossed a solid $24.4 million over the weekend, meeting the high end of its pre-release estimates and leading a domestic box office that was only off 6 percent year to year, not bad considering how things have been going.
Warner's Zack Snyder-directed "Sucker Punch" finished second, meeting its spongy pre-release estimates.
Holdovers "Limitless" ($15.2 million) and "The Lincoln Lawyer" ($11 million) had solid second weekends, both declining under 20 percent.
Also notable, two films passed the $100 million domestic mark: Paramount's "Rango" grossed $9.8 million and now has $106.4 million after four weekends; and Sony's "Just Go With It" sustained Adam Sandler's rather impressive streak of triple-digit performances, grossing $1.5 million in its seventh weekend and upping its North American total to $100.2 million.
Here's how the top 10 fared. Full report continues below chart:
Produced for $21 million by Fox 2000 and shot in Vancouver, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules" drew an A-minus grade from movie customer-satisfaction tracker Cinemascore, while outpeforming the premiere of last year's first "Wimpy Kid" movie.
With that first movie grossing $77.7 million worldwide on the backs of a $15 million production spend and a no-name cast, Fox seems to have found itself a fairly successful family franchise.
"At the end of the day, it's quality family entertainment that's appealing to kids and parents alike," noted Chris Aronson, executive VP of distribuiton for Fox.
"Sucker Punch," meanwhile, was co-produced by Legendary Pictures and Warner at cost somewhere in "the mid-70s range after tax breaks," according to a Warner official.
The film generated 21 percent of its revenue playing on 229 domestic IMAX screens — a record for a 2D film — while garnering a B-minus Cinemascore.
Not surprisingly, the film skewed toward young males, commanding an audience that was 64 percent dude and 74 percent under the age of 35. In fact, 45 percent of "Sucker Punch" patrons were younger than 25 — a relatively high turnout for that youth demo, given its conspicuous absence from mutiplexes so far in 2011.
According to Warner distribution executive Jeff Goldstein, the $19 million performance should be good enough for Warner and Legendary to make money on the film.
"We're expecting we'll be OK based on this," he said.
Among indie releases this weekend, The Weinstein Company's "Miral" grossed $65,000 playing at four locations for a soft $16,250-per-screen average.