Wherefore Art Gnomeo No. 1?

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Box office analysts were puzzling over the "whys and wherefores" of a wreck of a weekend that saw the two newest releases unable to fulfill even their worst forecasts. Most of the bewilderment was about the "wherefores," as Disney's animated Gnomeo & Juliet took over first place in its third week. The movie, which was produced neither by Disney's own animators nor by Pixar's but by Toronto-based Starz Animation, took in an estimated $14.2 million, surprisingly beating the Farrelly brothers' R-rated Hall Pass . That movie, which many forecasters had predicted would win the weekend with around $16-18 million, wound up instead with just about $13.4 million. Even worse -- far worse, given the fact that it cost a reported $75 million to produce -- the Nicolas Cage action film Drive Angry 3D totaled with $5.1 million, probably not enough even to cover its marketing, promotion and distribution costs. It was hard to determine whether the costs involved in recutting, promoting and distributing the Justin Bieber "fan cut" of Never Say Never justified the $9.2-million worth of tickets it sold during week three. Several analysts blamed competition from the Oscar telecast for the box office nosedive. On the other hand, probably in anticipation of its winning the best picture Oscar, business for The King's Speech jumped 17 percent as it added $7.6 million to its gross after 14 weeks to bring its total to $114.5 million. Overall, the box office was down 22 percent from a year ago, continuing a virtually unrelieved downturn compared with 2010 that began before the first of the year. The only up weekend of 2011 occurred over the Presidents Day holiday -- and only because the holiday occurred a week earlier a year ago.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo 1. Gnomeo & Juliet , $14.2 million; 2. Hall Pass, $13.4 million; 3. Unknown, $12.4 million; 4. Just Go With It , $11.1 million; 5. I Am Number Four, $11 million; 6. Justin Bieber Never Say Never , $9.2 million; 7. The King's Speech , $7.6 million; 8. Big Mommas Like Father, Like Son , $7.6 million; 9. Drive Angry 3D , $5.1 million; 10. The Roommate , $2.1 million.



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