This weekend Sony became the first studio in over a year to seize control of the top two spots at the box office as its Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop remained at number one for a second straight week while its new werewolf thriller Underworld: Rise of the Lycans opened close behind in second place with a solid showing. Movies nabbing Oscar nominations saw their grosses jump, some more dramatically than others, with a handful using the opportunity to expand their runs nationwide. The overall North American box office remained robust and beat year-ago numbers for the fifth consecutive weekend.
Paul Blart cemented its position as the first blockbuster of 2009 with a relatively low decline in its sophomore frame dipping only 33% to an estimated $21.5M. That put the ten-day cume for the PG-rated laugher at a sensational $64.8M. With a slender $26M production cost, Mall Cop looks on track to find its way to at least $120M if not more, establishing James as a bankable leading man in the lucrative comedy genre. Sony has another PG-rated bumbling crime-fighter comedy coming in two weeks in the form of The Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin.
The Kate Beckinsale-less franchise flick Underworld: Rise of the Lycans enjoyed a solid debut in the runnerup spot with an estimated $20.7M from 2,942 sites for a healthy $7,036 average. The R-rated effects-driven prequel held up well for the third film in the series and the first without its primary star. Expectations were that without Beckinsale, Lycans would not match the openings of the past films which were $21.8M for 2003’s Underworld and $26.9M for 2006’s Underworld: Evolution. The third installment cost $35M to produce with adult men making up the primary audience segment. According to studio research, 59% of the crowd was male and 55% was over 25.
Despite being shut out by the Clint-loving Academy, Gran Torino posted an impressive hold in its third weekend of wide release dipping 27% to an estimated $16M. That pushed the cume up to $97.6M putting the Warner Bros. release on course to cross the $100M mark by Thursday. Also dropping 27% and holding up quite well was the kidpic Hotel for Dogs which collected an estimated $12.4M for fourth place. Paramount’s total after 10 days is a commendable $37M.
Powered by its ten Oscar nominations, and nationwide expansion from 582 to 1,411 locations, Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire surged 80% this weekend to an estimated $10.6M allowing the acclaimed pic to enter the top five for the first time in its eleven-week run. Winning the top prize from the Producers Guild of America on Saturday, the Danny Boyle-directed film also earned the highest per-theater average among all wide releases with a solid $7,477 per site. The total for the $14M-budgeted indie has climbed to $55.9M surpassing the $49M of big Fox’s awards hopeful Australia which cost a hefty $130M to produce.
The horror flick My Bloody Valentine 3D tumbled 53% in its sophomore outing grossing an estimated $10.1M. With $37.7M scared up in ten days, the Lionsgate release should find its way to roughly $55M.
Apparently moviegoers looking for a fantasy adventure about a man who brings stories to life by reading books got their fill last month from Adam Sandler. The similarly-themed Inkheart starring Brendan Fraser opened poorly in seventh place with an estimated $7.7M from 2,655 locations for a weak $2,910 average. The New Line production was released by Warner Bros. and earned lackluster reviews.
Fox’s wedding comedy Bride Wars followed in eighth with an estimated $7M, off 40%, for a $48.7M cume to date. Brad Pitt’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button scored the most Academy Award nominations of any film with 13 and enjoyed a modest bump in sales increasing 8% to an estimated $6M to raise the total to $111M. Since the Paramount release has been in wide release since its Christmas Day bow and no major expansion was done this weekend, the box office boost was not expected to be too large given that it has already reached a large audience over the past month. Button did, however, break the Top 20 chart of top-grossing releases from 2008 bumping Tropic Thunder off the list.
Rounding out the top ten was the rap saga Notorious which crumbled 72% in its second weekend to an estimated $5.7M. The Fox Searchlight release pulled most of its audience out on the first weekend leaving little left for future frames. With $31.8M to date, a $35-40M final seems likely.
With Oscar nominations announced on Thursday morning, several distributors pre-planned expansions for nominated films this weekend hoping to cash in on the extra publicity. Revolutionary Road, one of the major pics snubbed by the Academy with no nods in the top categories, widened from 171 to 1,058 and grossed an estimated $5.3M for a moderate $4,979 average. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the Paramount Vantage release has taken in $11.9M and faces a tough road ahead without major Oscar ammo. Fox Searchlight’s The Wrestler expanded from 144 to 566 playdates and banked an estimated $3.7M for a solid $6,537 average. With a pair of acting nominations for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, the award-winning drama upped its total to $9.5M.
The three Best Picture nominees with the smallest odds of winning the big prize also saw grosses increase. Universal went nationwide with its political drama Frost/Nixon and took in an estimated $3M from 1,099 theaters for a mild $2,750 average. Securing five Oscar nominations, the Ron Howard-directed film has taken in $12M to date and isn’t generating too much moviegoer excitement. The Reader, which also scored five nods, climbed 10% this weekend to an estimated $1.4M for a $9.7M sum for The Weinstein Co. The Sean Penn film Milk rose 11% to an estimated $864,000 giving Focus $21.6M since its Thanksgiving release. The film bagged eight nominations from the Academy.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $117.6M which was up 8% from last year when Meet the Spartans opened in the top spot with $18.5M; and up a strong 43% from 2006 when Epic Movie debuted at number one with $18.6M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya,