Box Office: ’21 Jump Street’ Hits No. 1 as ‘The Hunger Games’ Looms

NEW YORK | Monday, March 19th, 2012 6:33am EDT

Audiences headed back to school for the TV update “21 Jump Street,” which opened as the No. 1 weekend movie with $35 million.

21 Jump Street Ends The Loraxs Run 01

'21 Jump Street', starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as two cops who go back to high school on an undercover mission, collected a healthy $35 million. Photo: Rotten Tomatoes

According to distributor Sony Pictures, the comedy took down the animated hit “Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax,” which had been the top flick the previous two weekends.

The film is followed by Universal’s ‘The Lorax’ which has achieved second-place with $22.8 million, raising its domestic total to $158.4 million. At No. 3, Disney’s costly sci-fi dud ‘John Carter’ dropped sharply in its second weekend.

The Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation took in $13.5 million, down 55 percent from its anemic opening weekend and lifting its domestic total to a measly $53.2 million. ‘John Carter’ reportedly cost $250 million to make, writes Movie Fone.

Advance screenings and an Internet marketing campaign helped to make people interested in the movie’s debut, said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures.

“I think we were very successful in getting an opening like this with tremendous word-of-mouth,” said Bruer, who confirmed the studio planned a sequel.

Mr Bruer claims the studio has managed to increase awareness of the film and help younger audiences identify with the older property. “The way the film was executed made it relevant for today’s audiences,” he said.

He kept on talking: “I just think you had to make it relevant, and action comedy was the way to go. And they did make it very relevant to a young audience. The guys, Jonah and Channing, were just killer together. They had incredible chemistry and certainly were the attraction for younger crowds.”

Jonah Hill noted earlier, “All of us up here would love to do a sequel, but it’s no longer in our hands.”

He kept on talking: “So if you tell your friends that the movie was great and they go watch it and it makes a bunch of money, then we will all be making a sequel very soon. If not, you will never see us ever again. It’s in your hands, no longer ours.”

Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian said ‘The Hunger Games’ which hits the cinemas could have an opening weekend well above $100 million and might surpass the $116.1 million debut of 2010’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ which holds the record for best domestic premiere in March.

Dergarabedian attended ‘The Hunger Games’ premiere and said that “fans were lined up, camped out for days. I hadn’t seen that since the `Twilight’ movie. But unlike `Twilight,’ which was dominated by the female audience, there’s huge interest from males in this movie.”

The movie is based on the novel by Suzanne Collins; 26 million copies are in circulation in the U.S. alone. It is part of a three-book trilogy that is expected to spawn as many as four movies.

“It’s about rebellion, really, and political oppression and propaganda,” explains actor Wes Bentley, who plays head Gamemaker Seneca Crane, the architect behind the grisly reality show. “It’s very sophisticated, about one girl who starts with this fire in her, and it’s about her family and then becomes so much bigger.”

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