‘Rio’ Nudges Tyler Perry for Big Friday, But Overall Box Office Down 20%

Fox’s “Elephant” drama and Tyler Perry’s latest “Madea” movie hit their tracking, as does Disney’s new lion-themed nature documentary; none of it helps the broader market, which is down 20% this weekend

Saturday update:

All three new wide releases performed solidly if not spectacularly Friday, with the latest Tyler Perry film, the new Rob Pattinson drama "Water for Elephants" and the newest Disney nature spectacle "African Cats" all matching their pre-release projections.

None of it really helped the overall domestic box office, however, which is pacing 20 percent off the same weekend last year. Fox's "Rio," meanwhile, is predicted to win the weekend with a big $10.8 million on its second Friday.

With Lionsgate opening "Madea's Big Happy Family" in 2,288 theaters, the Perry-made comedy grossed an estimated $10.6 million Friday, putting it on pace to meet the high side of its studio's mid-$20 million prediction.

Fox's "Water for Elephants," meanwhile, took in an estimated $7 million, putting it on track to meet studio guidance in the high teens.

Disney's "African Cats" grossed an estimated $3.3 million, and could actually beat projections of $6 million-$8 million.

Here's the full top 10:

"Rio" ($10.8m)
"Madea's Big Happy Family" ($10.6m)
"Water for Elephants" ($7.0m)
"Hop" ($4.9m)
"Afrian Cats" ($3.3m)
"Scream 4" ($2.7m)
"Soul Surfer" ($2.3m)
"Insidious" ($2.1m)
"Hanna" ($1.8m)
"Source Code" ($1.8m)

Thursday preview:

Coming off one of the few up weekends at the domestic box office, during which the market was up around 10 percent year-to-year, Lionsgate will release one of the more reliable movie franchises into 2,288 theaters.

Lionsgate predicts "Madea's Big Happy Family" will gross somewhere in the low-to-mid-$20 million range, with some more optimistic prognosticators speculating an opening as high as $30 million.

Last year over the same Easter holiday weekend, Perry's "Why Did I Get Married Too" debuted to $29.3 million.

Also opening widely, Fox's dark adult period drama "Water for Elephants" will start out in 2,817 locations, with the studio predicting a start in the low teens.

Disney, meanwhile, will debut its latest nature documentary, "African Cats," in 1,220 locations, with expectations hovering in the $6 million-$8 million zone.

As for holdvers, Fox's well-received 3D-animated "Rio" should hold strongly after its $40 million start last weekend and could challenge the latest "Madea" film for the box-office crown.

While "Madea" comes with a typically moderate Perry budget and a built-in core audience that produces fairly reliable returns, "Water for Elephants" is somewhat of a wild card for Fox, which is going against the grain a bit in releasing a dark adult drama widely and well after awards season.

Starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon as 1930s carnival workers, and budgeted at around $38 million, Fox is hoping for the kind of extended play that propelled such quirky off-season hits as "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Little Miss Sunshine."

Reviews for "Elephants," however, don't point to long legs, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film at 39 percent fresh as of Thursday afternoon.

Tracking-wise, the movie is actually getting better numbers from older females than younger ones, with 80 percent of women older than 25 reporting awareness of "Elephants," while 47 percent express "definite" interest and 20 percent report it as their "first choice," according to NRC.

As for "African Cats," the best comparable model is probably Disney's last family-targeted big-screen nature documentary, "Oceans," which opened to $6.1 million last year.