The new animated film “How to Train Your Dragon” breathed some box-office fire, debuting at No. 1 over the weekend with $43.3 million, according to the Associated Press.
Distributed by Paramount, the DreamWorks Animation adventure came in well behind the studio’s last cartoon comedy, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” which opened with $59.3 million over the same weekend last year.
With strong reviews and enthusiastic responses from viewers in exit polls, DreamWorks expects “How to Train Your Dragon” to have more staying power than “Monsters vs. Aliens” in subsequent weekends.
“People just love the film, so we’re really anticipating we’ll benefit from strong word of mouth going forward,” Anne Globe, head of marketing for DreamWorks, told the AP.
“How to Train Your Dragon,” featuring the voices of Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera in the tale of a Viking youth who tames a fire-breathing beast, outperformed some other recent animated movies, including Sony’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” which opened with $30.3 million last September.
Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which had been No. 1 film the previous three weekends, slipped to second place with $17.3 million. It raised its domestic total to $293.1 million and its worldwide take to $656 million.
“How to Train Your Dragon” pulled in 68 percent of its revenue from 3-D presentation, another triumph for the digital technology that allows theaters to show movies in three dimensions.
But it also highlights the limits on how many 3-D films theaters are equipped to handle. “How to Train Your Dragon” took over the bulk of 3-D theaters at the expense of “Alice in Wonderland,” because the roughly 4,000 screens capable of showing digital 3-D movies is not enough to handle two full wide-release films at the same time.
“There’s no question there are not enough screens yet,” Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Disney, told the AP. “People who want to seek out ‘Alice’ in 3-D may have to travel a mile or two more than they used to. … It’s competition. I’m used to it.”
After a phenomenal 15-week run, James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Avatar” lost most of its remaining 3-D theaters to “How to Train Your Dragon.” The 20th Century Fox release finally fell out of the top 10, taking in $2 million to finish at No. 11, raising its domestic total to $740.4 million. Worldwide, the movie has taken in $2.7 billion.
Another new 3-D release, Warner Bros. action remake “Clash of the Titans,” arrives Friday. While the success of 3-D movies has driven theater chains to speed up their conversion to systems that can project digital 3-D films, a screen shortage will remain for the near future.
“There is a limited amount of shelf space. It’s like a traffic jam at the multiplex for these 3-D movies,” Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com, told the AP. “It’s a high-class problem to have, but it’s still a problem.”
Films playing in 3-D have topped the box office for nine of 13 weekends this year, Dergarabedian said.
John Cusack’s raunchy comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine” failed to fully boil, with a lukewarm No. 3 debut of $13.7 million. Released by MGM, the movie features Cusack as part of a group of losers hurled back by a time-traveling hot tub to the 1980s, where they have a chance to set their lives right.
In narrower release, Sony Pictures Classics’ sex thriller “Chloe” opened with $1 million in 350 theaters, averaging a weak $2,863 a cinema. That compared to an average of $10,678 in 4,055 theaters for “How to Train Your Dragon” and $4,956 in 2,754 theaters for “Hot Tub Time Machine,” according to the AP.
Directed by Atom Egoyan, “Chloe” stars Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried in a drama about a woman who hires a prostitute to tempt her husband and find out if he’s cheating on her.
Overall box-office revenues were down for the first time in a month, according to the AP. Domestic receipts totaled $127 million, off 13 percent from the same weekend last year.
For the year, revenues are at $2.6 billion, 8.8 percent ahead of last year.
Here are the top 10 movies, from the AP:
1. “How to Train Your Dragon,” $43.3 million.
2. “Alice in Wonderland,” $17.3 million.
3. “Hot Tub Time Machine,” $13.7 million.
4. “The Bounty Hunter,” $12.4 million.
5. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” $10 million.
6. “She’s Out of My League,” $3.5 million.
7. “Green Zone,” $3.3 million
8. “Shutter Island,” $3.2 million.
9. “Repo Men,” $3 million.
10. “Our Family Wedding,” $2.2 million.