As Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze wrote so long ago, “Let’s face it, I’m wrong again.” Yes, my admittedly halfhearted hunch on Friday, that director Peter Billingsley’s multi-star comedy vehicle, “Couples Retreat,” would be lucky to break double-digits, has been proven to be laughably wrong. Instead, as per Andrew Stewart of Variety, the film grossed a cool estimated $35.3 million for Universal despite the appearance that nobody seemed to have a whole lot of confidence in it.
In my own defense, I was working on less second-hand “tracking” info that usual and no one I read ventured a specific guess (jolly Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter apparently took the weekend off). Also, I did indeed note the lack of competition, but I obviously vastly underestimated its import…until an extremely intelligent female friend of mine mentioned to me via Facebook that she’d seen it. True, she didn’t seem to like it — but by then it was too late and I then knew that even seemingly discerning viewers might glom onto it out of a lack of anything else in the same ballpark. Anyhow, it’s great news for the cast, and the grown-up star of “A Christmas Story” turned first-time director who will live to film again, sooner rather than later, probably. Let’s just call this one “Ralphie’s revenge.”
Otherwise, taking a look at the weekend’s estimated chart as supplied by Box Office Mojo will show few surprises, with Sony’s past chart toppers “Zombieland” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” both holding comfortably. Among the limited releases, “An Education,” a Nick Hornby-penned literary adaptation with some awards potential, did a very healthy estimated $40,000 per screen in four theaters this weekend.
There is one hugely dramatic piece of data, however, and that’s the #5 showing of “Paranormal Activity,” which as you can read in my review, has the power to make even a presumably jaded Hollywood audience act like terrified 11 year-olds. Any sourpuss who tells you that this is all hype — and such sourpusses are already emerging online — certainly wasn’t in the same theater as me and definitely wasn’t feeling the same thing as me.
On the strength of its quickly growing buzz, the three-character video-flick scored a spectacular $44,000 per screen average and an estimated total of $7,066,000 in 159 theaters. (Compare that to the #6 film, “Surrogates,” which grossed $4,115,000 on 2,992 theaters.) I don’t see how Oren Peli’s thumpingly scary debut doesn’t emerge as one the year’s biggest hits and definitely its most profitable production; the mock-documentary supernatural horror tale’s original budget of $11,000 was exactly one-fourth of its per-screen take this weekend. Whoever dines with Oren Peli may now order the lobster, and whoever decided to pick this one up for Paramount can definitely sleep well at night.