Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio scored the biggest openings of their careers with the psychological thriller Shutter Island, the fourth teaming between the two men, which easily led the North American box office. With no other films debuting in wide release, the rest of the top ten was filled with holdovers, most of which dropped by more than 50% from last weekend’s record holiday session. The top ten films beat out year-ago levels, however the Top 20 fell behind last year’s performance due to the current marketplace’s lack of depth.

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Moviegoers spent the weekend with the criminally insane as the mystery thriller Shutter Island debuted at number one with an estimated $40.2M. Paramount launched the R-rated film in 2,991 theaters and averaged a strong $13,440 per site. Previous bests for the men were $26.9M for the director’s The Departed and $30.1M for the actor’s Catch Me If You Can. Last August, the studio surprised the industry by moving Shutter from October 2 (the same slot that worked wonders for Departed) to this current weekend. While the date change took the film out of this winter’s awards season, it allowed the pic to squeeze more value from its marketing materials. Plus the studio was able to run a very well-received TV spot during the Super Bowl two weeks ago to help heighten excitement.

Shutter Island scored the ninth biggest opening in February and the fourth best for an R-rated film. It was also the second highest for 2010 behind just Valentine’s Day from last weekend. Studio research showed that the $75M production played evenly among males and females as well as with those over and under 25. Reviews were good overall but critics were not ecstatic. Scorsese’s films have typically been more artsy and have almost always debuted to less than $12M from more narrow releases. Shutter was a more commercial vehicle and was sold as a mainstream thriller from an Oscar-winning filmmaker which was all that was needed to convince ticket buyers.

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After a huge top spot debut, the romantic comedy Valentine’s Day couldn’t score a second date with audiences as the Warner Bros. release tumbled by a disturbing 70% to an estimated $17.2M. But it was still a good showing for a film of its type in the sophomore frame and helped to boost the ten-day tally to a solid $87.4M. Much of the decline was due to Sunday’s take which fell sharply from last Sunday which was Valentine’s Day. Compared to last weekend’s daily grosses, the PG-13 film dropped 61% on Friday, 60% on Saturday, but a steep 82% on Sunday. A final tally of $120-130M seems likely.

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The unstoppable Na’vi pic Avatar climbed one spot to third with an estimated $16.1M, off only 32%, boosting the record-shattering total to $687.8M. James Cameron is on track to score the first-ever $700M-grossing blockbuster by next Sunday, the last day of February.

Fox claimed fourth place too with the fantasy adventure Percy Jackson & The Olympians which dropped 51% to an estimated $15.3M in its second round. The PG-rated effects pic has banked $58.8M in ten days and has a shot at breaking the $100M mark by the end of its run. Universal’s monster flick The Wolfman suffered a 69% fall to an estimated $9.8M and lifted its cume to $50.3M in ten days. Produced for over $100M, the R-rated thriller should finish with around $70M.

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Former chart-topper Dear John ranked sixth with an estimated $7.3M, off 55%, giving Sony $66M to date. Playing to a slightly different audience, The Tooth Fairy slipped only 26% to an estimated $4.5M for a $49.9M sum for Fox.

The studio’s fourth title in the top ten came from Fox Searchlight’s Oscar contender Crazy Heart which dipped only 29% to an estimated $3M for a $21.6M total thus far. John Travolta’s From Paris With Love dropped 55% to an estimated $2.5M while Mel Gibson’s Edge of Darkness fell 54% to an estimated $2.2M. Cumes stand at $21.2M and $40.3M, respectively.

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It was an eventful weekend for director Roman Polanski who is currently under house arrest in Switzerland. His newest film The Ghost Writer won him the Silver Lion award for best director at the Berlin International Film Festival and also generated a muscular platform launch in the United States with an estimated $179,000 from just four theaters for a sizzling $44,750 average. Bowing in only two locations a piece in New York and Los Angeles, Summit’s PG-13 film starring Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall, and Tom Wilkinson earned strong reviews but just a moderate B+ CinemaScore from ticket buyers. Ghost expands into ten more markets on Friday as it continues to roll out across the country.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $118.1M which was up 5% from last year when Madea Goes To Jail opened in the top spot with $41M; and up 39% from 2008 when Vantage Point debuted at number one with $22.9M.

This weekend in a surprise upset victory, the new romance saga Dear John booted seven-time champ Avatar from the number one spot at the North American box office powered by young women chasing after Hollywood hunk Channing Tatum. John Travolta (the Tatum of the late 1970s) saw his new action thriller From Paris With Love bomb settling for third place. Overall ticket sales slipped from last weekend thanks in part to the Super Bowl distracting millions of Americans.

The young ladies couldn’t resist a man in uniform as the soldier story Dear John surged past industry expectations to capture the top slot at the multiplexes with an estimated $32.4M opening weekend. Invading 2,969 theaters, the PG-13 drama starring Tatum and Amanda Seyfried averaged a muscular $10,913 per site. Eager to take credit for the remarkable performance were Relativity Media which produced and Sony’s Screen Gems unit which handled marketing and distribution duties. It was the biggest opening ever over Super Bowl weekend beating the $31.1M of the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus 3D concert film from two years ago which played in just 683 locations but charged $15 per ticket for a scorching $45,561 average.

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With Hollywood too busy in recent weeks rolling out underperforming films from over-50 actors like Travolta, Mel Gibson, and Harrison Ford, neglected teen girls found in Dear John the exact type of entertainment they were looking to pay top dollar for. According to Sony’s research, a whopping 84% of the audience was female while 64% was under 21. The $25M film opened better than From Paris With Love, Edge of Darkness, and Extraordinary Measures – combined. John even powered ahead of the $27.8M debut of the star-studded book-based date flick He’s Just Not That Into You from exactly one year ago.

Reviews were mostly bad so the studio instead took its case directly to the customers scheduling many word-of-mouth screenings to build buzz and promoting the film with the U.S. Army and other military organizations. The lead actors were also sent to strategic locations for public appearances where, conveniently, teenage girls went into screaming frenzies. Dear John benefited from a release date just a week before Valentine’s Day and had a built-in audience of readers of the Nicholas Sparks book. 2004’s The Notebook, also based on one of his novels, turned into a major sleeper hit that summer. His next book-turned-movie The Last Song stars Miley Cyrus and hits cinemas at the end of next month over Easter weekend opposite the 3D actioner Clash of the Titans.

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After its seven-week reign at the top of the box office, James Cameron’s Oscar-nominated juggernaut Avatar slipped to second place but still generated a healthy $23.6M, according to estimates. Off 25%, the Fox smash boosted its domestic haul to $630.1M. It was only the second time in its entire run that the weekend decline was more than 20%, however much of that was due to the expected hit Sunday will take because of the Super Bowl. Compared to last weekend, Friday slipped by 19%, Saturday dipped by 18%, and Sunday is projected to fall by 39%. For this weekend, the studio is forecasting a rather low 48% drop from Saturday to Sunday. Most distributors are factoring in declines of over 60% because of the Big Game.

Overseas, Avatar grossed an estimated $75M this weekend, down 21%, lifting the record international tally to $1.58 billion and the global tally to an eye-popping $2.21 billion. Reaching $2.5 billion should be easy for the 3D extravaganza.

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Action fans showed little interest in John Travolta’s bald head and goatee as the actor’s latest offering From Paris With Love bowed in third place with an estimated $8.1M from 2,722 theaters for a weak $2,983 average. The R-rated espionage thriller was directed by Pierre Morel whose hit thriller Taken was the big surprise winner over last year’s Super Bowl frame. This time, moviegoers were not excited and mostly avoided the French-set action flick. Reviews were negative for the Lionsgate release.

Audiences abandoned Mel Gibson as his revenge thriller Edge of Darkness tumbled by 59% in its second weekend to an estimated $7M. After ten days, the Warner Bros. release has collected $29.1M and is headed for a finish of roughly $45M. On the other hand, Dwayne Johnson’s kidpic The Tooth Fairy posted another good hold in its third round dropping 35% to an estimated $6.5M. Fox’s 17-day total stands at $34.3M.

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Falling a steep 55% in its second weekend was the romantic comedy When in Rome which grossed an estimated $5.5M putting the ten-day sum at a decent $20.9M for Buena Vista. Following in seventh was The Book of Eli with an estimated $4.8M, off 46%, giving Warner Bros. $82.2M to date.

Fox Searchlight expanded its Oscar contender Crazy Heart from 239 to 819 theaters and saw ticket sales climb 58% to an estimated $3.7M for an eighth place finish. Averaging $4,457 per site, the Jeff Bridges starrer scored three nods for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Song. The film has already earned many wins in the actor and song categories of other awards groups. Cume is now $11.2M.

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Sony’s supernatural thriller Legion tumbled 53% to an estimated $3.4M lifting its cume to $34.7M. Sherlock Holmes rounded out the top ten and broke the double century mark in the process. The Robert Downey Jr. pic fell 42% to an estimated $2.6M raising the total to $201.6M. It became the record tenth release of 2009 to jump the $200M mark. With $242.5M from overseas markets, the global tally for the Guy Ritchie-directed franchise-starter now stands at an impressive $444M.

Oscar nominees for Best Picture that are still in theaters benefited from the higher profile. Witnessing smaller declines than before were The Blind Side which dipped 14% to an estimated $2.6M and Up in the Air which slipped 16% to an estimated $2.4M. Totals are $241.6M and $76.7M, respectively. Lionsgate’s Precious expanded from 222 to 669 locations but still struggled with audiences. Despite more than doubling its weekend gross, the urban drama took in an estimated $435,000 averaging only $650 per site. Total is $46M.

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The top ten films grossed an estimated $97.6M which was up 2% from last year’s Super Bowl frame when Taken opened in the top spot with $24.7M; and up 3% from 2008’s football weekend when Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds 3D debuted at number one with $31.1M. The game fell one week earlier on the calendar during those two years.

Author: Gitseh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

This week at the movies, we’ve got Gallic gunplay (From Paris With Love, starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and some sad pen pals (Dear John, starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried). What do the critics have to say?



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From Paris With Love

It’s been a while since a good cop-buddy action flick has hit screens, a situation that critics say From Paris With Love does little to alleviate. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as a low-level CIA agent who’s thrilled to be assigned to a career-making case; too bad his new partner (John Travolta) is a trigger-happy wild man. Together, they must thwart a terrorist attack on Paris — one that’s targeting our heroes as well. The pundits say Paris benefits from Travolta’s gleefully over-the-top performance, but overall the film doesn’t quite find a balance between its laughs and thrills. (Check out our Total Recall countdown of Travolta’s best-reviewed movies.)



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Dear John

If you’re in the mood for a tearjerker — or, perhaps a tear-yanker — any movie adapted from a Nicolas Sparks novel will probably do the job (The Notebook and A Walk to Remember are based on his books). But critics say Dear John is overly sappy and melodramatic even by weepie standards. Amanda Seyfried stars as a college student who meets a soldier (played by Channing Tatum) while he’s on temporary leave – over the next few years, their love blooms via snail mail, before tragedy strikes. The pundits say Dear John is schmaltzy, overly manipulative, and generally dull, though the leads are appealing.


Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Israeli import Ajami, about multi-ethnic tension in the wake of a revenge killing, is at 93 percent.

  • Terribly Happy, a Danish drama about a onetime big-city cop who gets tied up in small town affairs, is at 89 percent.

  • Eyes Wide Open, the tale of a married Orthodox Jew who gets involved with a younger man, is at 75 percent.

  • District 13: Ultimatum, the sequel to the movie that popularized the parkour craze, is at 64 percent.

  • The Red Riding Trilogy, a dark made-for-British-TV thriller about the hunt for a serial killer, is at 56 percent.
  • Frozen, a horror flick about three friends trapped on a ski lift, is at 38 percent.