BOX OFFICE: ‘Hop’ tops ‘Arthur’ with $21.7M weekend

The ticket-paying public would rather watch an animated Russell Brand than an inebriated Russell Brand.

The live-action/CGI hybrid “Hop” — which stars Brand as perhaps the most successful cartoon bunny since Jessica Rabbit’s framed hubby Roger — was the top box-office draw for the second straight weekend, making nearly $21.7-million at the domestic window, according to studio estimates. The film from Illumination Entertainment — the same folks who struck gold last year with the animated “Despicable Me” (which also featured Brand’s voicework) — pushes its 10-day total past $68.2-million, reports Reuters.

The film has also made almost $75-million globally; its production budget was $63-million, according to Box Office Mojo.— meaning “Hop” appears to be quickly tramping its way to pre-DVD profitability.

Filmgoers were less eager, however, to watch Brand offer his spin on the role originated by fellow Brit comic Dudley Moore in the early ’80s charmer “Arthur” — the tale of a wealthy, immature drunk that likely appealed to Brand for two reasons: (1) his own well-documented struggles to beat multiple addictions; and (2) his stated appreciation and study of his English-comedy forebears like Moore and Peter Cook.

(Both “Hop” and “Arthur,” perhaps not coincidentally to the recently wed Brand, are about a young, active protagonist who must grow up, “get his act together” and have a reckoning with a parent.)

“Arthur” debuted with only a $12.6-million take; at least several million less than the studio (Warner Bros.) had reportedly hoped for the remake, which reportedly cost about $60-million to make.

Some industry observers may try to spin this into Brand being less successful as an Actor than a voice actor. But for Brand — who has plainly stated his longtime thirst for worldwide fame in his twin “Booky Wook” memoirs — it’s a win-win: By making every box-office headline this weekend, he’s one step closer toward achieving his goal of Global Household-Name Recognition. (Yes, as in becoming a Brand name.)

“Hop” should get some competition in the coming days, however, as the Brazilian-born Carlos (“Ice Age”) Saldanha’s animated film “Rio” is released, aiming for the same sweet-spot demographic as Brand’s bunny film.

Sunday’s box-office numbers are based on studio estimates; final numbers are scheduled to land Monday afternoon.

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.

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