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Box office preview: 'Arthur' takes on 'Hop' in the battle of the Brands

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Hop Arthur
Hop: Rhythm & Hues/Universal; Brand: Barry Wetcher

Not since Jeff Bridges with an eye patch took on Jeff Bridges on a light cycle has a star posed such a threat to himself. Moviegoers’ Brand loyalty will be tested this weekend as two protagonists duke it out: the family-friendly, jelly bean-excreting bunny from Hop and a lovelorn alcoholic billionaire named Arthur from Arthur, both of whom are played by Russell Brand. Studios are throwing a varied handful of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, including the Danny McBride/James Franco sword-in-the-stoner comedy Your Highness, the Bourne Jr. thriller Hanna, and the true-story Soul Surfer. But despite all these premieres, it’s highly unlikely the weekend’s box office will exceed that of last year’s, where Clash of the Titans, Date Night, and How to Train Your Dragon all finished in the mid-$20 million range. Here are our predictions:

1. Hop: $23 million

The cutesy, Easter-timed family comedy exceeded expectations last weekend, pulling in $37.5 million. That’ll buy a lot of Cadbury eggs. This week’s newcomers don’t really pose that much of a threat to Hop’s core audience of young’uns, so I don’t suspect its take to drop more than 40 percent in its second week. Universal is almost guaranteed to recoup the $63 million production budget by Sunday, which is pretty impressive considering there’s still two more weeks until Easter actually rolls around with its glut of chocolate bunnies and Marshmallow Peeps. 

2. Arthur: $18 million

The original Arthur, starring Dudley Moore as the irascible drunk who gets caught between the moon and New York City, was a surprise box office hit and the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year. With mostly negative reviews and source material that few young moviegoers are familiar with, the remake doesn’t appear poised to do quite as well. But as the sole PG-13 comedy this week, opening in 3,276 theaters, it should earn a comfortable second place. In other words, John Gielgud, but not John Gielgreat.

3. Your Highness: $15 million

Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green’s re-teaming with Danny McBride and James Franco probably won’t do as well as their previous chronic-tinged comedy, but the raunchy, R-rated humor and action-adventure might find a place among the wallets of the 18-25 demographic. Co-star Natalie Portman has also been on a bit of a roll, with the double b.o. successes of Black Swan and No Strings Attached.

4. Hanna: $10 million

Focus Features’ adorable little murderer, played by Saoirse Ronan, might have difficulty finding its audience, as it’s not quite a straight-up action flick. Add to that the fact that director Joe Wright has previously stuck to more prestige-y work like Atonement and The Soloist, and the relatively sluggish marketing, and I think we could expect low double digits.

5. Source Code: $8 million

The question here is whether Jake Gyllenhaal’s mind- and time-bending thriller will manage to stay in the Top 5 in its second week, or whether it will be pushed off by the fourth and final major new release, Soul Surfer. It might be close, but I give Code the edge. The two tiers of “family friendly” (PG and PG-13) have already been taken by Hop and Arthur respectively, and while some might swing by to see Carrie Underwood in her first major acting role, it might not be enough to unseat an action film with a major Hollywood star.

Also opening this week — in 206 theaters — is the aww-some documentary Born to Be Wild, which will try to entice moviegoers with the promise of baby animals in 3-D and Morgan Freeman’s dulcet tones.

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