Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shutter Island retains the top spot while Cop Out and Crazies over-perform and Avatar breaks another record. Weekend box office in review (02/28/10).

This will be shorter than usual. First of all, there isn't all that much news to report and second of all, I spent the day at Disneyland which was far-more crowded than usual. Curse you, "Captain EO"! You marred my Sunday in three dimensions! Point being, I'm quite pooped. So... "Shutter Island" pulled a repeat at number one this weekend, dropping just 44% for a $22.6 million-second weekend and a new total of $75.5 million. Despite the mixed reviews and word of mouth, the Scorsese thriller is still the only real event movie out there for people who don't need a return trip to Pandora.

While I didn't care for "Shutter Island" one bit, I am heartened that a moody, complicated, 2.25-hour, non-sequel, R-rated thriller from Martin Scorsese is a genuine smash hit. In this day and age, it's always refreshing for an adult-driven genre picture to reach heights only usually accorded to franchises and animated films. The picture is Scorsese's fifth-biggest domestic grosser and will be number 03 by next weekend. Whether or not it can surpass the $132 million earned by "The Departed" is an open question, but it won't have any demo competition until "The Green Zone". Said 'Bourne goes to Baghdad' thriller opens March 12th (I have no idea if that's accurate, but it's sure how the Paul Greengrass/Matt Damon film is being sold by Universal).

Number two and three went to the openers. Both performed a bit above expectations. Kevin Smith's "Cop-Out" nearly doubled his previous personal-best opening weekend with $18.2 million (his previous high, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back", opened with $11 million back in August 2001). This also marks one of Bruce Willis's best debuts over the last decade, as his star-power has decreased since he stopped working with M. Night Shyamalan. It's his eleventh-best opening weekend, and most of the bigger openings were from the 1990s. This isn't just a case of waning star power as much as Willis choosing non-commercial ventures. No one expected "Alpha Dog" or "Lucky Number Slevin" to play like "Armageddon", so this solid opening with a purely commercial picture is a good sign.

As for Kevin Smith, this will easily surpass his biggest-grossing picture, as he's never had a picture gross over $31 million (so good on Warner for only spending $30 million on this picture). I'd argue that the whole 'Kevin Smith gets tossed of an airplane' controversy helped push the film into the public conscience, it still doesn't excuse how the media covered said event (it was treated as 'Ha ha, Kevin Smith is fat!' rather than 'Hey, Southwest Airlines ejected a passenger who clearly was not too obese to fly!'). As it is, Kevin Smith pictures are often greeted by one controversy or another (Kevin Smith vs. the Catholic Church, Kevin Smith vs. GLAAD, Kevin Smith vs. the overexposure of 'Bennifer'). It will be interesting to see how the film plays long-term. Despite terrible reviews, it still pulled in a solid 3.06x multiplier, implying theoretically positive word of mouth. It will also be interesting to see if Tracy Morgan gets more film work as a result of this opening, as the film was clearly sold on his antics as much as Bruce Willis's star-power.

Number three went to the remake of "The Crazies", which Overture opened to $16 million (at a cost of just $20 million). The surprisingly well-reviewed remake of a 1973 George Romero picture pulled in a 2.68x multiplier, which is about normal for a horror film. With this opening and "Law-Abiding Citizen", "Capitalism: A Love Story", and "Righteous Kill", Overture is quickly establishing itself as a major player. For what it's worth, my wife and I watched the original version of "The Crazies" last night, and it's a shockingly good and genuinely disturbing little picture. If the remake is any good, might I suggest you check out director Breck Eisner's previous film, the vastly underrated "Sahara"?

Anyway, fourth place went to the film that cannot be killed (until next weekend, when it will likely be killed), "Avatar". Dropping just 15%, the James Cameron epic crossed $700 million in its eleventh weekend. Aside from crossing the $706 million in domestic sales, the film's overseas takes has topped $1.84 billion, which means that "Avatar" has made more overseas that "Titanic" made worldwide. The new worldwide total for "Avatar" is a staggering $2.5 billion. Alas, this will likely be the last weekend of tiny drops, as Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" opens next weekend and will steal all of the IMAX screens and most of the 3D auditoriums.

The only limited releases were "A Prophet" ($163,773 on nine screens) and "Formosa Betrayed" ($77,326 on fifteen screens), "Art of the Steal" ($39,019 on three screens), and "The Yellow Handkerchief" ($37,296 on seven screens). Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" expanded to 43 screens and made another $789,064. It's new total is $1.04 million. While the film is not cheap ($45 million), Summit Entertainment is only on the hook for whatever they paid for North American distribution rights, so this should be a nice non-"Twilight" feather in their cap to go along with their likely Oscar glory for "The Hurt Locker" (be it just Best Director or Best Director and Best Picture).

Other than that, it was just a matter of various films crossing arbitrary marks. With $99.9 million by Sunday, "Valentine's Day" will cross $100 million by the time you read this, making it the decade's first $100 million grosser. Ironically, the first such milestone of the last decade was "Erin Brockovich", also starring Julia Roberts. "Percy Jackson and the... too tired to type out the full title for this terrible movie" and "Dear John" crossed $70 million, while "The Wolfman" sits at just $57 million (on a budget of $150 million). "Crazy Heart" crossed $25 million and "When in Rome" crossed $30 million. At $248 million, "The Blind Side" is less than $10 million from passing "Star Trek" after dropping just 14% in its fifteenth weekend.

That's about all that's fit to print this weekend. Join us next weekend for the likely-to-be huge debut of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland". While I likely won't see it until opening night (it was a choice of seeing it early by myself or waiting until Friday and letting my wife come along), I do hope it's closer to this than to this. Alas, if you've read this, you know where my instincts lie. Also opening is the Antoine Fuqua police drama, "Brooklyn's Finest" (also from Overture, natch) and the Independent Film Channel Jon Hamm thriller, "Stolen". Oh AT&T U-Verse, why do you not carry IFC On Demand?

Scott Mendelson

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