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’21 Jump Street’ Leaps to First Place at Domestic Box Office With Strong $35M

”21 Jump Street“ opens strong — but for the first time this year, the box office is down compared to the same weekend in 2011

"21 Jump Street" opened to an estimated $35 million this weekend, but despite the arresting deubt, the domestic box office was down about 6 percent compared to the same weekend in 2011.

This is the first weekend in 2012 that the box office hasn't beaten the corresponding time frame last year.

The No. 2 movie at the domestic box office, Universal's "The Lorax," pulled an impressive $22.8 million in its third weekend of release. That's a drop of 41 percent over last weekend. The No. 3 movie, Disney's unfortunate "John Carter," tumbled 55 percent in its second week, to $13.5 million.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend is Pantelion's "Casa de mi Padre," Will Ferrell's Spanish-language spoof. The movie opened at No. 9 in North America, with $2.2 million at only 282 locations.

Pantelion is a partnership between Lionsgate and the Mexican company Televisa.

Although the box office came up short compared to what it took during this weekend last year, 2012 is still beating 2011 by about 15 percent.

Unlike last year, when three movies — "Limitless," "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "Paul" — opened in wide release, only "21 Jump Street" debuted in wide release this weekend. While this weekend, only three movies broke the $13 million mark, five did last year. And this year, seven of the top 10 movies grossed $4 million or less. Last year, eight of the top 10 exceeded $5 million.

NCAA basketball may have something to do with it. March Madness, which happens every year at this time, tends to keep some audiences — particularly male moviegoers — at home.

Also read: '21 Jump Street' Review: You Have the Right to Remain Amused

In fact, Rory Bruer, who heads distribution at Sony, entered March Madness into his calculations when he made his pre-release projections for "21 Jump Street," which is a Sony/MGM film.

Those projections had the movie taking somewhere in the mid $20 millions, although less conservative box-office watchers outside the studio figured it would take between $31 million and $35 million.

"I thought that (NCAA basketball) could have kept us under 30, with all the games" he told TheWrap. "To do what we did just really shows the power of the vehicle — and the stars."

Indeed, the R-rated "21 Jump Street," which cost about $42 million to make, appealed to a broad cross-section of moviegoers: The opening weekend audience was 53 percent male, and equally split between people younger than 25 and those 25 and older.

The comedy, based on a 1980s television show about young-looking police officers who go undercover in high schools, stars Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

It is the first live action feature from co-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord ("Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs").

Tatum is an increasingly important actor for Sony. He starred in "The Vow," which Sony's Screen Gems produced with Spyglass. The romantic drama opened to No. 1 in North America on Feb. 10, and has grossed nearly $120 million domestically.

"Everyone knows how funny Jonah is, but Channing really blew people away with his comedy chops," Bruer said. "He's got real star quality, no doubt."

The audience polling firm Cinemascore gave the movie a "B" grade, though moviegoers younger than 25 gave it an "A."

"21 Jump Street" opened at 3,121 locations, giving the movie a per-location average of $11,214.

By comparison, Pantelion's "Casa de mi Padre" opened at 282 locations and enjoyed the biggest opening in its history.

The R-rated comedy, in Spanish with English subtitles, stars Ferrell as Armando Alvarez, a man who has spent his life working on his father's ranch in Mexico. His life gets extra-weird when his brother, international businessman Raul (Diego Luna), shows up with his lovely girlfriend Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Armando falls for Sonia, Raul turns out to be corrupt and the feared drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) becomes involved.

According to Pantelion, the audience was 51 percent male and 68 percent Hispanic.

The company plans to expand the film to 50 more locations in 25 to 30 additional markets next weekend.

Internationally, "John Carter" grossed an estimated $40.7 million this weekend — $10.4 million in China — bringing its international total to $126.1 million. While that would be an impressive figure for many films, "John Carter" cost about $250 million to make.

"Jump Street" grossed an estimated $7 million overseas in its first, limited release abroad.

The big international news, however, looks like "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island."

That movie, which debuted domestically on Feb. 10, grossed $5 million internationally this weekend.

That puts it at $207 million internationally and $95 million domestically, meaning it now is above $300 million worldwide and 31 percent ahead of its predecessor, "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

Next weekend, expect one of the biggest openings of the year, when Lionsgate releases its long-anticipated "The Hunger Games."

The movie could easily open to $120 million.