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Paul Blart: Box Office Champion

January 20th, 2009

One film on Thursday's prediction column missed expectations; just one. This explains while, despite the fact that the number one film this year was well behind the number one film last year, the overall box office saw amazing growth to $193 million over three days, and $231 million over four. This was ahead of last year's Martin Luther King Jr. day long weekend by 25% and 24% respectively. Year-to-date, 2009 had brought in $668 million, which represents a 24% increase over last year's pace of $539 million.

Compared to Cloverfield's opening, Paul Blart: Mall Cop was not as strong at $31.83 million from Friday to Sunday and $39.23 million including Monday. However, that was the second biggest box office for a Martin Luther King Jr. long weekend ever. Additionally, since the studio's share of the box office tends to be rather front-loaded, it is likely that the studio has already made enough money to cover the film's $26 million budget after just four days of release. Even if its legs are no better than its reviews, it will still be considered a smash it. And if is has even marginally better legs than the average MLK long weekend release, then it has a real shot at becoming the first $100 million hit of the year. I don't think the studio was expecting this when they decided to dump this film in January, and it bodes very well for Kevin James' career going forward.

Gran Torino slipped to second place, down a mere 25% over the three day portion of the weekend with $21.98 million. Add in Monday and the film made $25.61 million over the weekend for a running tally of $76.60 million. At this pace, there's no doubt in my mind that Gran Torino will become just the sixth $100 million hit in Clint Eastwood's acting career, and the third such film he's directed. The only question is how fast it will get there. Perhaps as early as this time next week.

My Bloody Valentine may have missed expectations with $21.24 million over three days compared to Thursday's prediction of $22 million. That is close enough to call a victory. Meanwhile its reviews have sunk from the pre-weekend high of 83% positive to a mid-weekend score of 71% positive to a score of 59% positive now. However, that is still good for a horror remake. Hell, that's Oscar caliber compared to most horror remakes and its legs should be stronger than most of the genre because of this. Even if they are not, with a reported budget of $20 million, the film is well on its way to profitability.

I kind of feel sorry for Notorious; if it wasn't for Paul Blart: Mall Cop's near record opening, it would have been the big story of the weekend. Despite playing in just 1,638 theaters, the film earned $20.50 million over the weekend, to give it a per theater average of $12,514, which was the best for any movie in release. Add in Monday, and the movie earned $23.39 million, which is likely in line with what it cost to make. Even with zero box office potential internationally, this film should have no trouble showing a profit.

Rounding out the top five was Hotel for Dogs with $17.01 million / $22.87 million. Reviews are neither strong enough to draw in mass audiences outside of families (and maybe dog lovers), nor are they weak enough to expect a quick decline from theaters. The direct competition could hurt it next weekend, but it is well on its way to topping original expectations, while it has an outside chance at matching its reported $75 million production budget. Even if it doesn't, DVD / Blu-ray sales should be enough to take it to profitability.

The final wide release of the week was Defiance, which expanded wide this week. It finished on the low end of the range given on Thursday, but $8.91 million / $10.51 million is not a bad start all things considered. On the other hand, with mixed reviews and a rather high production budget, it will need a bit of luck internationally and on the home market to show a profit.

Moving onto the sophomore class, none of last week's new releases were able to reach the top five this week with Bride Wars coming the closest. That film placed sixth with $11.65 million / $13.88 million over the weekend and $39.71 million overall; this was a faster decline than expected, but overall it is still on track to be a mid-level hit. The Unborn fell even faster, down more than 50% during the three-day portion of the weekend with $9.34 million, while it earned $10.55 million including Monday for a total of $33.78 million. Again, this is enough for the film to be considered a mid-level hit. The final film was Not Easily Broken, which evaporated to just $1.95 million / $2.37 million over the weekend and $8.51 million in total. So far this is the only bomb of the month.

Two other films of note this week. Both The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Bedtime Stories reached $100 million over the weekend. With Gran Torino well on its way there, there will be 28 $100 million films from 2008, which is one shy of the record. If Slumdog Millionaire scores at the Oscars, it could have what it takes to make it there as well.

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Filed under: Gran Torino, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Bedtime Stories, Hotel for Dogs, Bride Wars, My Bloody Valentine, The Unborn, Notorious, Defiance, Not Easily Broken