“Valentine’s Day” takes big V-Day/President’s Day weekend

Jennifer Garner smashes expectations in Somewhat exceeding the optimistic predictions I noted on Friday, Garry Marshall’s critically disliked all-star ensemble romantic comedy, “Valentine’s Day,” has earned an estimated $52.41 million for the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. According to Nikki Finke, it is also earning a very nice (and very estimated) $60 million for the WB studios over the not-yet-complete four day holiday period. According to THR/Reuters, the weekend as a whole came in ahead of last year’s President Day with $193 million, compared to $188 million in 2009. Not surprisingly consider, women were the driving force in the success of the Garry Marshall comedy.

Coming in completely on target, we have a photo-finish between the two genre-films duking it out for the #2 spot. The lengthily titled adaptation of a series of young-adult fantasy novels, “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” from Fox and director Chris Columbus, came in slightly ahead with an estimated $31.1 million. Meanwhile, Universal’s trouble-plagued, R-rated stab at reviving it’s grimly furry monster/horror franchise, “The Wolfman,” earned roughly $30.6 million according to estimates.

Benecio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins realize it's a dog-eat-man world

As for the #4 spot, yes, it’s one more strong performance for Fox’s “Avatar.” The film dropped a minuscule 3.7% percent from last week to earn a very solid $22 million in its 9th week. Conversely, Sony’s sentimental wartime love story, “Dear John,” dropped like a relative stone, 49.8% to be exact, and came in with a less exciting $15.3 million to take fifth place in its second week. Still, with a budget of only $25 million and not $120 gazillion or whatever it was that “Avatar” cost, it’s not a terrible performance.

The #1 this week in terms of per-screen averages was “My Name is Khan,” a topical Bollywood drama being released by Fox Searchlight. It scored $15,500 per screen for an estimated $1.8 million. Another win for the growing U.S. popularity of Indian pop-cinema.

  

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Blu Tuesday: Harry Potter Ultimate Editions

The release of the new “Harry Potter” Ultimate Edition Blu-rays may seem a little premature considering the last two movies won’t even hit theaters until 2010 and 2011, respectively, but I actually like Warner Brothers’ aggressiveness with getting the first batch out so soon. Not only does that give them ample time to put out the other four movies before the release of “Deathly Hallows: Part One,” but it’s also a great way to ring in the new decade. After all, “Harry Potter” had a massive impact on pop culture over these last ten years, and what better way to celebrate that than with a really cool collector’s set?

Having said that, however, the Ultimate Editions are really only for those diehard fans that want to know anything and everything about the making of the films, because with the exception of a new series of featurettes called “Creating the World of Harry Potter” (with a new installment appearing on each release), these are nearly identical to the original Blu-ray and DVD releases. The addition of extended versions of both “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets” is a nice touch (as are the Chocolate Frog-inspired character cards that come packaged in the box set), but the only reason anyone should be buying these are for the aforementioned featurettes and their corresponding books.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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And in other movieland news….

* MGM is looking more solvent than before, with the help of its significant library. La Finke toldja.

* Willem Dafoe has been cast as sympathetic Martian Tars Tarkas in Andrew Stanton’s upcoming “John Carter of Mars.” It’s been a very long time since I read the books, but the character description reminds me of his “Platoon” character, just a little.

* Where does an actor for whom the ladies swoon go in the masculinity department after playing the hirsuite badass Wolverine and the heroic Gable-esque lead in “Australia“? Well, if you’re movie star/Oscar host Hugh Jackman, you play an Avon cosmetics sales person. I had an aunt who did that; I got aftershave for my tenth birthday.

* After the news of Harry Potter’s big haul (see the post just below), we’ll be seeing more like this, I’m sure.

* Not coincidentally, the blogger-boy cause celebre del dia boils down to a Hogwartsian architectural design and a suspiciously Potter-esque font, and basic concept, in the trailer for something called “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” My reaction: Chris Columbus is directing, so I’m not sure why anyone even cares. See for yourself…

  

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Brüno earns his umlaut

On Friday I wrote the following:

There’s obviously general agreement about the numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one proved the prognosticators wrong either by making a lot less or a lot more money than expected.

Well, the only person proved wrongish was me. The only surprise was that that there appear to be absolutely no surprises as Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles’s “Brüno” is projected to have made $30.4 million to top the weekend — just slightly exceeding the pre-opening estimates. The slightly bad news for Universal is that the film had a rather large drop off in its second day at the box office. Variety calculates it at 39%, Nikki Finke says 37%. (I can’t check who is right because Variety isn’t giving a complete breakdown of the daily performance, and may be working with slightly different numbers than Ms. Finke. I also suck at math.) In any case, it does show an increase over the “Borat” numbers. Also, this kind of film is a bit cheaper to make than some others, possible lawsuits notwithstanding.

Christian Bale, Public EnemiesNo big surprises further down the rankings either, with “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” breaking the $100 million mark with $28.5 million in its second “frame.” That’s an ice-cool $120.6 million so far for the family flick. If I may copy the Variety house style, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” made an automatic $24 million for a Gigantor-sized $339 domestic total, with THR/Reuters proclaiming it “easily the biggest movie of the year.” (Well, I’m still hoping for a surprise.) and “Public Enemies” knocked over the public to the tune of $14.1 million. Nikki Finke is reporting that competing studios are talking down the star-driven gangster movie’s chances of hitting the $100 million mark.

Critics and the public were, for a change, speaking with one voice and gave a box office D-grade to the week’s second wide release, the high school comedy, “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” The adaptation of a novel by original author Larry Doyle and director Chris Columbus matched its dismal critical performance with a seventh place showing, netting a paltry $5 million despite being in 1,858 theaters.

  

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