UPDATE: According to actual numbers released on Monday, 'Hall Pass' was the number-one movie of the week, with $13.5 million. That puts the Owen Wilson vehicle ahead of the weekend's original champion, 'Gnomeo and Juliet,' which dropped from $14.2 million to $13.4 million. Full numbers updated below.
You gnome, you love 'em. The lawn ornaments of 'Gnomeo & Juliet' defeated this weekend's new wide releases to take the top spot at the box office for the first time in the film's three weeks in theaters. Midlife crisis comedy 'Hall Pass' had to settle for a no. 2 debut, while Nicolas Cage's hot-rodder from hell in 'Drive Angry' barely got out of the starting gate.
'Gnomeo's' tale of Shakespearean romance between denizens of rival gardens raked in an estimated $14.2 million this weekend, down just 26 percent from last week. The movie continues to enjoy boosts from 3D ticket prices, strong word-of-mouth and a lack of alternatives for family viewing. Its three-week total is $75.1 million, putting a $100 million gross easily within reach.
'Hall Pass' was expected to top the chart with about $16 million and mark the Farrellybrothers' best chance at a no. 1 movie since 'Me Myself and Irene' back in 2000. But the movie wasn't helped by poor reviews and middling word-of-mouth, an R rating, competition for the same audience with Adam Sandler's still-strong comedy 'Just Go With It,'Owen Wilson playing against type as a nebbish, or 'Saturday Night Live' player Jason Sudeikis's unproven drawing power as a leading man. So 'Hall Pass' opened with an estimated $13.4 million, just $800,000 behind 'Gnomeo.'
Last week's topper, Liam Neeson's action thriller 'Unknown,' slipped to third place this week with an estimated $12.4 million, down 43 percent from its debut a week ago. Its 10-day total stands at $42.8 million.
In its third week, 'Just Go With It' held onto fourth place with an estimated $11.1 million, down 40 percent from a week ago. Its PG-13 rating gave it a less restrictive audience than the similar 'Hall Pass.' In three weeks, the Sandler comedy has earned $79.4 million.
'I Am Number Four' was only no. 5 this week with an estimated $11.0 million, less than $100,000 behind 'Just Go With It.' Ticket sales for the alien-invasion thriller/high-school romance fell 43 percent this weekend, with still-formidable competition for a young and largely female audience from 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.' The concert film, re-released with new footage just two weeks after its debut, remained strong at no. 6 with an estimated $9.2 million take, down just 31 percent from a week ago. In three weeks, Beliebers have coughed up $62.8 million. The two-week total for 'I Am Number Four' is $37.7 million.
What happened to 'Drive Angry'? Oh, there it is, debuting way down at no. 9. The Nicolas Cage film had been expected to open around $12 million, in second or third place. Besides familiar plot elements reminiscent of Cage's 'Ghost Rider' and 3-D ticket surcharges on almost every screen of the film's wide release, 'Drive' couldn't compete with 'Unknown' for the action crowd, and poor word-of-mouth matched the poor reviews. As a result, the car chase movie stalled out of the gate with just $5.1 million, according to studio estimates. That marks two flops in two months for Cage, after January's 'Season of the Witch,' which has topped out around $25 million after eight weeks.
The full top 10:
1. 'Hall Pass,' $13.5 million (2,950), new release
2. 'Gnomeo & Juliet,' $13.4 million (3,037 screens), $74.3 million total
3. 'Unknown,' $12.4 million (3,043), $42.8 million
4. 'Just Go With It,' $11.1 million (3,544), $79.4 million
5. 'I Am Number Four,' $11.0 million (3,156), $37.7 million
6. 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,' $9.2 million (2,810), $62.8 million
7. 'The King's Speech,' $7.62 million (2,386), $114.5 million
8. 'Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,' $7.55 million (2,821), $28.6 million
9. 'Drive Angry,' $5.1 million (2,290), new release
10. 'The Roommate,' $2.1 million (1,726), $35.9 million
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.