Box Office Preview: 'Madea' to be happily on top

PAUL DERGARABEDIAN - For The Associated Press
Tyler Perry arrives at the premiere of "Madea's Big Happy Family" in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 19, 2011.   "Madea's Big Happy Family" opens in theaters April 22. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Tyler Perry arrives at the premiere of "Madea's Big Happy Family" in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. "Madea's Big Happy Family" opens in theaters April 22.

Lionsgate's "Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family" is expected to top the Easter weekend box office chart with a big and happy gross approaching $30 million.

Tyler Perry's films have generated over half a billion dollars in domestic revenue and the 10 feature films he has produced and directed since 2005 have had an average opening weekend of $23.5 million. Of those, the films with Madea's name in the title have been the most popular with audiences.

This weekend should be another great one for the celebrity birds of Fox's "Rio," with anticipated revenue of around $20 million as kids on spring break continue to flock to theaters with their parents. The film was a bigger-than-expected hit in its debut last weekend at $39 million and is currently the No. 1 film in the world.

Fox's "Water for Elephants" starring "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson is likely to grab a third place debut with a gross in the low teens. Based on the best-selling novel by Sara Gruen, the film also features Reese Witherspoon and Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz. Boasting major female appeal, "Water for Elephants" is likely to become a long-term alternative to the testosterone-driven summer blockbusters now on the horizon.

Jungle cats and bunnies will go at it for the weekend's fifth position: Universal's Easter-themed "Hop" should take full advantage of the holiday weekend and gross in the $6 million to $8 million range, while Disney Nature's "African Cats" should land on its feet in the same territory.

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Paul Dergarabedian is president of the Box Office Division of Hollywood.com and a longtime box office analyst for The Associated Press.

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Online: www.Hollywood.com/boxoffice