Sunday, January 18, 2009

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Paul Blart, Box Office King

Ah, January – the only time of year where a movie about an overweight mall cop can pull in over $30 million in its opening weekend and a film about a dog hotel can open, period.

PAUL BLART: MALL COP, the Kevin James vehicle, surpassed all expectations this weekend to debut atop the chart. Of course, that last statement implies that people had expectations to begin with. James even managed to take down Clint Eastwood, pulling in $10 million more than GRAN TORINO did in its second weekend of wide release. Neither actor has anything to complain about, mind you. James has proven in one single weekend that he can open a major film release and Eastwood has proven that the man is still one of the most impressive box office draws in Hollywood, at least when he is front of the camera and flaunting a shotgun.

The rest of the Top 5 continues to impress as four out of the five earned north of $20 million. The Martin Luther King holiday weekend saw a 31% increase over last year and that is only for the three-day regular weekend period. MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D led the pack, charging right off the screen and into third place. The film’s average was slightly less than last week’s horror entry, THE UNBORN but still played solidly. Mind you, THE UNBORN dropped off 50% this weekend so I’m not sure MY BLOODY VALENTINE will still be around come Valentine’s Day. The Top 10 saw one other entry this week, the wide expansion of the Daniel Craig starring, DEFIANCE. The film earned a stable but unimpressive average of just over $5K for an eighth place finish. The awards contender has seen little support and is not expected to be an Oscar surprise.

Pulling in the highest per screen average of any film in release this weekend was NOTORIOUS, the life and death story of the Notorious B.I.G. This was only one of many reasons for the Fox people to celebrate this weekend. Last week’s Golden Globe winner for Best Motion Picture (drama), SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, narrowly surpassed fellow competitor, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, to sneak back into the Top 10 with a resurged five figure average. The film is a lock for a bunch of Oscar nominations so Slumdog’s millions will continue to roll in for weeks to come. Also, Fox Searchlight’s THE WRESTLER, fresh from winning two Golden Globes including Best Actor (drama) for Mickey Rourke, continued its slow expansion with an addition of 84 screens and saw another surge of over 100%.

In other Golden Globe news, Kate Winslet’s double win helped REVOLUTIONARY ROAD continue to expand solidly, increasing 22% over last week. Her Supporting Actress win for THE READER did not fare as well though. The film continues to perform decently but lost 90 screens this week and saw its returns fall off 9%. Awards season still has another month to go so some of the contenders need to pick it up. The Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film , WALTZ WITH BASHIR, fought the film’s controversy to increase 18% over last week. And the Golden Globe winner for Best Motion Picture (comedy), Woody Allen’s VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, tacked on another 50 screens and surged 112% despite its home video release being just a couple of weeks away.

NEXT WEEK: We shall see how this Thursday’s Oscar nominees shape the contender grosses, if at all. This is especially true for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, THE WRESTLER, FROST/NIXON and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, as all four jump into aggressive expansions in hopes that their film will be receiving many a nod this week. Even THE DARK KNIGHT returns for awards season, reappearing on over 200 screens and ensuring that it will cross the $1 billion mark internationally. As for brand new wide releases, look for Brandon Fraser in INKHEART, which seems awful close in premise to JOURNEY AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH to me, and the latest installment in the now Kate Beckinsale-less franchise, UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS. Or don’t look for them; they don’t sound worth looking for to me.

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