This weekend the North American box office was on fire once again as four new releases all scored muscular debuts helping to drive the marketplace to the biggest January weekend in history as ticket buyers flooded the multiplexes over a record-shattering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday frame. The Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop surged ahead of expectations to easily win the session while the R-rated films My Bloody Valentine 3D and Notorious also generated stellar numbers. Kidpic Hotel for Dogs debuted to some nice figures as well joining its fellow newcomers in the top five. All four new films opened to more than $20M each over the extended four-day Friday-to-Monday period.
Santa must have given Hollywood studios crystal balls because just about everything tossed into theaters over the last four weeks has been met with a great response from moviegoers who seem to be in the mood to see anything. In fact since Christmas, a whopping eleven films have opened to $17M or more. That compares to just four from the same period a year ago. The Top 20 grossed a jaw-dropping $185M over the Friday-to-Sunday span this weekend beating last Thanksgiving’s holiday frame by an amazing 15%. Over the four-day span, the Top 20 soared to $222M edging last Memorial Day’s Friday-to-Monday session by 3%. The MLK frame has never been this potent.
Sony topped the charts with Paul Blart taking in an estimated $39M over four days beating the studio’s most aggressive forecasts. The PG-rated comedy averaged a superb $12,405 from 3,144 locations and established James as a bankable funnyman. Look for future paydays to climb rapidly. Having anchored the hit sitcom King of Queens, the actor has never opened a film on his own and instead has taken sidekick roles next to more established box office titans like Will Smith in Hitch and Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Blart’s three-day debut of $31.8M actually beat out the openings of recent films from both of those stars. Smith’s Seven Pounds bowed to just $14.9M while Sandler’s Bedtime Stories debuted to $27.5M. James attracted mostly negative reviews which meant nothing to moviegoers looking just for 90 minutes of mindless fun.
Budgeted at only $26M, the film should turn out to be a nice little moneymaker for Sony and Sandler whose company Happy Madison produced. Exit polls showed that males and females were evenly represented while those under 25 made up 56% of the crowd. Friday saw a solid start with a stellar $9.8M while Saturday jumped a healthy 35% to $13.2M with family audiences making the trip out. Blart also registered the third largest January opening ever.
Clint Eastwood held his own against the $110M of business stolen away by the four new releases this long weekend. His Gran Torino dropped to the runnerup spot in its second weekend of wide release pulling in an estimated $26.2M. The three-day portion fell just 25%. Warner Bros. is enjoying the same strong legs that most of Eastwood’s films have since the Oscar-winner’s older-skewing fan base usually comes out over time and not upfront in the first weekend. With $77.2M already in the tank, Torino could soar to $140M or more by the end of its lucrative run.
The battle for third place was tight but over the four-day Friday-to-Monday period, the horror film My Bloody Valentine 3D eked out the victory. The Lionsgate terrorfest bowed to an estimated $24.2M from 2,534 theaters for a terrific $9,569 average. It was the widest debut ever for a 3D film with 1,033 (41%) of those locations featuring the digital 3D presentation. The extra $2-3 per ticket that exhibitors charged for the new technology also helped to pump up the grosses. The three-day period saw $21.3M in sales. Valentine showed how strong demand is for an interesting horror film at the beginning of the year as it followed the strong $19.8M debut of last weekend’s PG-13 supernatural thriller The Unborn. Critics were surprisingly upbeat for Valentine. This was that rare weekend when the best reviewed new release was a gory horror flick.
Close behind in fourth place, but with the heaviest average of the weekend, was the biopic Notorious which grossed an estimated $24M from only 1,638 theaters. Averaging a sizzling $14,652, the R-rated story of the slain rap superstar gave Fox Searchlight the biggest debut in company history. It was also the best opening weekend average for a wide release since November’s Twilight. The three-day bow was $20.5M. Reviews were mixed for Notorious which attracted the multicultural fans of the late music star. Searchlight’s choice of release date was no coincidence as it knew that a film about a popular African American entertainer would sell opening over Martin Luther King weekend, and just days before the Obama Inauguration.
Kids and tweens lined up for the comedy Hotel for Dogs which debuted in fifth place with $17M over three days and $22.5M over the long holiday frame. The PG-rated Paramount release averaged a respectable $6,879 over four days from 3,271 locations.
A pair of sophomore titles followed. The wedding comedy Bride Wars fell to an estimated $14M pushing its 11-day total to $39.9M. Budgeted at $30M, the Kate Hudson-Anne Hathaway pic should go on to gross about $65M for Fox. Universal’s hit thriller The Unborn scared up an estimated $11M for a cume of $34.2M in 11 days. With a low $16M price tag, the PG-13 fright flick looks to reach $50M.
Paramount Vantage went nationwide with its Holocaust drama Defiance and ended up at number eight with a respectable four-day estimate of $10.7M. The Daniel Craig pic averaged a moderate $5,981 from 1,789 sites and has taken in $11M since its platform debut on New Year’s Eve. Two-time box office king Marley & Me followed in ninth with an estimated $7.5M. The Fox overachiever raised its impressive total to $133.9M making it the top-grossing film of Jennifer Aniston’s career when in a lead role.
A sweep of last Sunday’s Golden Globes helped make Jamal Malik a richer kid. Slumdog Millionaire, winner of Best Picture – Drama and three other trophies, lost 19 theaters but saw sales surge to an estimated $7.2M leading to a potent $12,285 average from 582 locations. The three-day tally of $5.8M soared 54%. Fox Searchlight has already taken in $44M and will expand the indie hit nationwide to about 1,300 runs this Friday, a day after Academy Award nominations are announced. Slumdog jumped up a spot to number one in the United Kingdom this weekend and will open in India on Friday.
Other films winning Globe statues also saw their grosses rise. Searchlight’s The Wrestler which took home two awards for Best Actor – Drama for Mickey Rourke and Best Song for Bruce Springsteen more than doubled its take to an estimated $2.1M. The film also expanded by 84 theaters and averaged a sturdy $14,410 from 144 sites. Kate Winslet’s Revolutionary Road, which won her a Best Actress – Drama prize, grossed an estimated $2.2M, up 24% over the three-day portion. The Paramount Vantage release averaged a solid $12,614 per location over four days from 171 playdates and will expand nationwide this Friday into 800 venues. Totals stand at $5.4M and $6.1M, respectively.
Those snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press suffered declines this weekend. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button dropped 40% (over the three-day portion) to an estimated $6.6M for Paramount lifting the total to $103.6M. The Meryl Streep pic Doubt fell 51% to an estimated $1.5M giving Miramax $25.5M to date. Declining 41% was Sean Penn’s Milk with an estimated $921,000 and a $20.5M cume. Frost/Nixon slid by 26% to an estimated $789,000 putting the sum at $8.7M for Universal. A Best Picture nod from the Academy this week could revive any of these films in the weeks ahead.
Elsewhere below the top ten, Overture expanded its Dustin Hoffman-Emma Thompson comedy Last Chance Harvey from 16 to 1,054 theaters nationwide and posted an estimated $5.1M, a decent bow in a crowded marketplace. Averaging $4,858, the PG-13 title has collected $5.7M since its limited debut in late December. Warner Bros. released its first Bollywood film with Chandni Chowk to China and grossed an estimated $700,000 from 130 theaters for a respectable $5,385 average.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $186.3M over four days which was up an impressive 23% from last year when Cloverfield opened in the top spot with $46.1M; and up a stunning 69% from 2006’s MLK frame when Stomp the Yard debuted at number one with $25.9M.
Compared to projections, the four new releases all soared higher than my three-day forecasts of $11M for Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $17M for My Bloody Valentine 3D, $13M for Notorious, and $14M for Hotel for Dogs.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a guard with insecurity (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James); pampered pooches (Hotel for Dogs, starring Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin); a crazed killer (My Bloody Valentine 3D, starring Jensen Ackles and Jaime King); Brooklyn’s finest (Notorious, starring Jamal Woolard and Angela Bassett); and wartime heroics (Defiance, starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber). What do the critics have to say?
Everybody loves a good dumb comedy — as long as it provides ample laughs. However, the critics say Paul Blart: Mall Cop is good for a couple of lowbrow yucks, but it isn’t exactly a model of disciplined storytelling. Kevin James likeably plays the title character, a portly, self-important (and sidearm-free) crime fighter in a suburban New Jersey mall who must utilize every shred of his training when a hostage situation arises. The pundits say Paul Blart contains some funny slapstick pratfalls, but its thin premise doesn’t generate a headlong comic intensity, and a number of gags simply fall flat. At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to go shopping somewhere else.
Kevin James, in a dramatic moment from Chopping Mall 2.
Marley and Me, Bolt, Wendy and Lucy, Beverly Hills Chihuahua… dog people must feel like they’re in cinematic heaven these days. Hotel for Dogs is the latest pooch-centric flick to hit multiplexes, but critics say its appeal will be limited to little kids and die-hard canine lovers. The film stars Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin as a pair of orphans who are so in love with man’s best friends that they convert an abandoned hotel into a four-star doggie resort, providing posh accommodations for as many strays as they can find. Look, few will go to Hotel for Dogs expecting hyper-realism, but the pundits say this occasionally funny slice of whimsy is predictable and contrived, and the four-legged heroes repeatedly outshine their human counterparts. At 48 percent on the Tomatometer, Hotel for Dogs may not be worth a stay.
“This is one more reason why we need a bailout.”
If you’re the type of filmgoer that really, really enjoys blood and guts, My Bloody Valentine 3D is here to overload your senses. Critics say this extremely grisly slasher flick, which with a sick sense of humor and three-dimensions-worth of wild kills, might just be a gorehound’s nirvana. A loose remake of the 1981 title of the same name, Valentine stars Jensen Ackles as Tom, a coal miner whose mistake costs the lives of some co-workers; now, a decade later, someone donning a miner’s mask and wielding a pickaxe is running amok in town, and Tom looks to be a target. The pundits say this is an expertly crafted, pretension-free genre piece that’s technologically advanced and features plenty of wicked scares. At 83 percent on the Tomatometer, this is one Bloody good time.
“I can’t believe it! That guy didn’t even signal!”
The Notorious B.I.G. was one of rap’s most compelling figures, with the remarkable ability to spin tales of his wayward past with devastating emotional vulnerability and insight. However, the critics say Notorious, George Tillman Jr.’s biopic of the late hip hop great, succumbs to the kind of clichés that Biggie studiously avoided on his records. First-timer Jamal Woolard stars as the man who would be B.I.G., a small-time Brooklyn hustler who became a huge star before his death in a shooting before his 25th birthday. The critics say Woolard is excellent, capturing the nuances of the character with assurance, but the rest of the film isn’t up to its central performance, clicking off the details of Biggie’s life without the complexity or depth of his rhymes. At 57 percent on the Tomatometer, Notorious isn’t quite “Juicy” enough.
“What a drag… Oh well, let’s see if Pizza Hut is open.”
Defiance recounts an undeniably important historical tale: that of a group of Eastern European Jews who fought the Nazis in World War II. And although the critics say the film is well-crafted, they also find it lacking in emotional impact. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell star as brothers who, on the run from the Germans, establish a community of refugees deep in the Belarusian forest; as food becomes scarce and disease runs rampant, the brothers decide to mount an offensive against the Nazis. The pundits say this is a respectful telling of a fascinating story, but the trouble is, it’s overly solemn and clichéd. Defiance currently stands at 54 percent on the Tomatometer. (Check out our interview with director Ed Zwick here)
“So anyway, my agent told me to hold out for $20 million before agreeing to Billy Elliot 2: Feet Afire.”
Also opening this week in limited release:
The German import Cherry Blossoms, the story of an elderly couple making a final journey to Japan, is at 100 percent.
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, a documentary in which famed philosopher Slavoj Zizek pontificates on the appeal of the movies, is at 100 percent.
Chandni Chowk to China, a Bollywood martial arts musical comedy, is at 10 percent.
Recent Daniel Craig Movies:
Four new films roll into theaters hoping to take advantage of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday which will give many a day off on Monday. R-rated fare leads the way with the horror remake My Bloody Valentine 3D and the hip-hop biopic Notorious being the big guns trying to knock Clint Eastwood from his position atop the charts. Also opening are a pair of PG-rated films – the kidpic Hotel for Dogs and the comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
The first in a long line of 3D movies this year opens on Thursday night at 10:00pm in the form of My Bloody Valentine from Lionsgate. The R-rated fright flick takes the industry’s love of recycling past horror films and mixes it with the gimmick of three dimensions which gives moviegoers an enhanced experience, and takes an extra $2-3 from their wallet. In Manhattan, some theaters are charging $15 per stub instead of their normal $12.50. The Unborn‘s surprisingly strong $19.9M bow last weekend shows how much hunger there is for scary movies with intriguing ideas. But Valentine doesn’t take the spooky, no-blood route to a PG-13. It delivers hardcore violence, killings, and gallons of hemoglobin for the genre fans that expect top-notch violence.
Lionsgate has been marketing the pic very well making it stand out in a crowded field of terrorfests packed into the January-February corridor. Plus the distributor has locked in a record 1,033 3D screens, the most ever for this format. And with those venues charging extra dough, the overall grosses will get a nice bump. Early reviews have been shockingly positive which is rare for this genre. That certainly can’t hurt. Add in the holiday weekend and you’ve got back-to-back weeks of horror hits. Attacking 2,534 theaters, My Bloody Valentine might open with about $17M over the three-day Friday-to-Sunday period.
Fox has raked in $125M with Marley & Me. Disney has gobbled up a combined $206M for Bolt and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Now Paramount joins the canine game hoping to score big dollars with not one but a whole gang of pooches with its kid comedy Hotel for Dogs. The PG-rated film should play to children and tweens plus their parents and with most students having a long holiday weekend, the target audience has extra leisure time. The MLK frame has been a good one for kidpics with 2005’s Racing Stripes bowing to $13.9M over three days and the following year’s animated film Hoodwinked opening to $12.4M. Not being tied to a major franchise, Hotel might debut in the same neighborhood. Competition is not too fierce and families are looking for something new to see following two weeks of Christmas leftovers. For those who just haven’t had their fill of doggies, this one will prompt a return trip to the multiplex. Marching into 3,271 theaters, Hotel for Dogs may open to around $14M over the Friday-to-Sunday span.
The life of slain hip-hop star The Notorious B.I.G. makes its way to the big screen on Friday in Fox Searchlight’s Notorious. The R-rated film comes from director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Men of Honor) and stars Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, and Jamal Woolard as the late rap legend. With nearly every fan of hip-hop music being part of the built-in audience, sold out shows are guaranteed to pop up from coast to coast. And with Martin Luther King Day and the Obama Inauguration following in just a few days, the timing could not be better for the release of a biopic on a popular African American superstar.
Reviews have been generally positive which is quite good for a new release coming out in January. Business should come primarily from those between the ages of 20 and 40, especially all the Biggie Smalls fans from the mid-90s. For loyal fans, this is a must-see event film. Notorious has by far the fewest theaters of this weekend’s four new titles, however a sizable number of multiplexes are double-screening it indicating solid pre-release demand. Competition from both holdovers and newcomers will be miniscule. Landing in 1,637 locations, Notorious might debut with around $13M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
Kevin James gives headlining a comedy a try with Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the funnyman’s first film as the sole anchor. The PG-rated film about a security guard at a dull suburban mall who faces off against real bad guys will play to the not-so-mature crowd looking for dumb humor. Following his successful sitcom King of Queens, James started showing up in multiplexes as the secondary dude opposite established box office draws Will Smith in Hitch and Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. With the training wheels off, he now gets to show himself, and the industry, whether or not he can open a picture solo. Younger kids may take interest and the rating promises harmless fun. But Hotel for Dogs will provide some overlap for tweens. Reviews will be terrible, but will eventually be ignored. Debuting wide in over 3,000 theaters, Paul Blart: Mall Cop could take in about $11M over three days.
Clint Eastwood hit a home run last weekend with his latest starring effort Gran Torino. To no surprise, the Warner Bros. hit has been holding up quite well during the week just as most of the actor/director’s films do. Monday and Tuesday each brought in an additional $2.8M. Second wide weekend drops for his recent films include 22% for Changeling, 38% for Flags of Our Fathers, and 31% for Million Dollar Baby. Plus all of the new releases skew much younger so Torino‘s Friday-to-Sunday take may slide by about 30% to $20M. That would boost the early cume to an impressive $71M.
Bride Wars also doesn’t have much in the way of direct competition so a respectable sophomore session is likely. With NFL conference championships on Sunday, and Monday being a holiday for many, Fox’s chick flick has a great opportunity to score with its target audience. A 35% drop could occur giving the Kate Hudson–Anne Hathaway laugher roughly $13.5M over three days for a 10-day cume of $39M.
Look for a massive drop for the horror pic The Unborn thanks to the double impact of bad word-of-mouth and the arrival of a competing horror flick. A 60% tumble would lead to a $8M frame and would lift the total to $31M after ten days. Although a new set of dogs will enter the marketplace, Fox’s Marley & Me will still remain a major contender in the top ten. Sales might fall by 40% to about $7M putting the sum at $133M.
LAST YEAR: A brilliant marketing campaign fueled interest in the low-budget monster flick Cloverfield which shot straight to number one with a stellar $40.1M setting a new opening weekend record for January. Katherine Heigl also generated a solid debut for her new comedy 27 Dresses which bowed at number two with $23M. Final grosses reached $80M for the Paramount thriller and $76.8M for Fox’s wedding tale. Rounding out the top five were holdovers The Bucket List with $14.1M, Juno with $10M, and First Sunday with $7.8M. Premiering with weaker results was the caper comedy Mad Money with $7.7M for Overture on its way to just $20.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com