Weekend Box Office (February 11 - 13, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Comedy king Adam Sandler and pop prince Justin Bieber fought over the North American box office crown with the funnyman winning a narrow victory according to final studio figures. Still, his comedy Just Go With It and the 3D concert flick Justin Bieber: Never Say Never pulled in a combined $60M and were joined by the 3D animated film Gnomeo & Juliet which exceeded expectations to power the marketplace to its best showing of 2011.

Adam Sandler's latest comedy Just Go With It didn't soar to the heights of his summer offerings, but it delivered a sturdy debut nonetheless with $30.5M. Sony's latest PG-13 vehicle from one of the industry's most bankable stars averaged a sturdy $8,601 from a very wide 3,548 sites. Dennis Dugan directed his sixth Sandler vehicle and Jennifer Aniston co-starred in the story of a single doctor who must stretch a lie about being married with kids to extreme levels. As with most Sandman projects, critics piled on the insults.

Just Go debuted well behind the $40.5M of the comedian's last film Grown Ups but beat out the $22.7M of his previous offering, the R-rated Funny People. Non-summer debuts for Sandler in years past have been better like the $42.2M for Anger Management from April 2003 and the $39.9M for 50 First Dates from Valentine's Day weekend in 2004. Just Go played to an older adult crowd with 60% of the audience being over 25 and 58% being female. The film's budget was about $80M which on par with other comedies starring top A-list talent. It was the eleventh number one hit for Sandler who has been a consistent draw at the box office with $100M hits in 10 of the last 13 years.

Teen pop sensation Justin Bieber narrowly missed out on a number one opening with his 3D concert biopic Justin Bieber: Never Say Never which debuted impressively with $29.5M this weekend. Powered by his tween girl fan base, and their moms, the G-rated film averaged a stellar $9,505 from 3,105 theaters playing in 443 fewer locations than Sandler's pic. A very high 84% of the gross came from 3D screens which included extra surcharges. Including $743,000 in sales from special Wednesday night previews held in selected cities, the total stands at $30.3M. Ticket packages for those shows were sold at $30 and included fan merchandise too so Paramount only counted a portion of that towards the box office gross.

Budgeted at a mere $13M, Never Say Never tells the story of how a young Canadian kid turned himself into an internet sensation and then a multi-platinum superstar in just a couple of years. The audience was exactly as expected with females making up 84% of the crowd and 67% being under 25. Reviews were the best among the weekend's four new releases and audiences liked what they got as the CinemaScore grade was a solid A. Despite the high score, sales are likely to decline fast as they generally do with movies that tap into intense fan demand. But with Valentine's Day Monday expected to be a strong day and next weekend's Presidents' Day holiday frame, Never Say Never will certainly end up being a very profitable venture.

Breaking down the days, Friday saw an easy Bieber victory with $12.4M compared to Just Go With It's $9.6M. The films swapped positions on Saturday with Sandler surging 41% to $13.5M and the teen singer dropping 13% to $10.7M. Sony witnessed a 45% decline on Sunday to $7.5M for Just while Paramount dipped 40% to $6.4M for Justin.

Disney scored a solid debut for its 3D animated comedy Gnomeo & Juliet which bowed to $25.4M by playing to families that have had very few good options this year. The G-rated pic about two feuding groups of garden gnomes set to the classic Shakespeare tale averaged a healthy $8,469 from 2,994 locations. Reviews were mixed but generally decent for what has become the biggest toon opening in February ever. With the Presidents' Day holiday next week and many schools taking winter breaks this month, the road ahead seems bright and a run to the $100M mark cannot be ruled out.

Opening to disappointing results in fourth was Channing Tatum's historical epic The Eagle which grossed $8.7M from 2,296 theaters for a soft $3,782 average. The PG-13 film came nowhere near the $30.5M bow of the actor's hit drama from last year Dear John and even fell below the $11M of his action film Fighting from April 2009. Reviews for Eagle were not too kind.

Last weekend's number one film The Roommate fell down to fifth place but fared well given all the competition dropping 46% to $8.1M. With $26M in ten days, Sony's $16M-budgeted thriller should finish with $35-40M.

Two weeks away from what The Weinstein Co. hopes will be the biggest night in the young company's history, The King's Speech remained popular with moviegoers dipping a mere 6% to $7.2M in its twelfth weekend. With ticket buyers continuing to catch up with what is the most likely film to win the Best Picture Oscar, the Colin Firth hit has raised its cume to $93.7M and should reach $100M before Presidents' Day. It also swept the BAFTAs winning seven awards including Best Film.

Natalie Portman's golden touch helped her sex comedy No Strings Attached which slipped only 27% to $5.8M giving Paramount $60M to date. Universal's 3D underwater adventure Sanctum dropped a moderate 40% to $5.7M in its second weekend. With just $18M in ten days, the James Cameron pet project should finish with a disappointing $30M putting it well below the $54.2M of 1989's The Abyss.

The blockbuster Western True Grit grossed $3.8M, down 18%, putting Paramount's sum at $160.4M. Sony's super hero flick The Green Hornet followed falling 38% to $3.7M and $92.4M overall. With $107.2M overseas, the Seth Rogen film will jump the $200M global mark on Monday.

In limited release, the indie comedy Cedar Rapids debuted to $302,968 from just 15 theaters for a solid $20,198 average for Fox Searchlight.

The top ten films grossed $128.4M which was down 30% from last year when Valentine's Day opened in the top spot with $56.3M; and down 16% from 2009 when Friday the 13th debuted at number one with $40.6M. However, both of those frames were during the lucrative Presidents' Day holiday session.

Compared to projections, Just Go With It debuted close to my $33M forecast while Justin Bieber: Never Say Never was on target with my $29M prediction. Gnomeo & Juliet more than doubled my $12M projection and The Eagle came in below my $11M forecast.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Watch Super Bowl movie ads and check the UPDATED box office chart for the Oscar Nominee Grosses.

For a NEW DVD review of Alice in Wonderland - 60th Anniversary, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when I Am Number Four, Unknown, and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son all open.

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# Title Feb 11 - 13 Feb 4 - 6 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Just Go With It $ 30,514,732 3,548 1 $ 8,601 $ 30,514,732 Sony
2 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 29,514,054 3,105 1 9,505 30,256,601 Paramount
3 Gnomeo & Juliet 25,356,909 2,994 1 8,469 25,356,909 Disney
4 The Eagle 8,684,464 2,296 1 3,782 8,684,464 Focus
5 The Roommate 8,126,025 15,002,635 -45.8 2,534 2 3,207 25,778,926 Sony
6 The King's Speech 7,230,790 7,712,353 -6.2 2,263 12 3,195 93,675,761 Weinstein Co.
7 No Strings Attached 5,810,291 8,004,834 -27.4 2,756 4 2,108 60,031,078 Paramount
8 Sanctum 5,661,705 9,447,930 -40.1 2,789 2 2,030 18,035,075 Universal
9 True Grit 3,785,344 4,640,139 -18.4 2,072 8 1,827 160,355,029 Paramount
10 The Green Hornet 3,673,909 5,966,229 -38.4 2,090 5 1,758 92,405,961 Sony
11 The Rite 3,252,360 5,589,311 -41.8 2,207 3 1,474 28,858,297 Warner Bros.
12 The Mechanic 3,202,921 5,295,253 -39.5 1,886 3 1,698 25,418,653 CBS Films
13 The Fighter 2,165,480 2,838,173 -23.7 1,049 10 2,064 85,632,024 Paramount
14 Black Swan 2,122,555 3,373,851 -37.1 1,069 11 1,986 99,337,220 Fox Searchlight
15 The Dilemma 1,031,015 3,282,555 -68.6 1,242 5 830 47,635,695 Universal
16 Tangled 813,849 1,850,628 -56.0 784 12 1,038 193,304,696 Disney
17 Yogi Bear 770,038 2,249,382 -65.8 1,111 9 693 96,618,279 Warner Bros.
18 Blue Valentine 585,508 786,441 -25.5 393 7 1,490 8,211,610 Weinstein Co.
19 Biutiful 580,245 641,647 -9.6 191 3 3,038 2,263,341 Roadside Attr.
20 127 Hours 559,094 1,348,746 -58.5 359 15 1,557 16,845,896 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 102,196,184 $ 46,133,981 121.5
Top 10 128,358,223 68,315,090 87.9
Top 20 143,441,288 81,999,977 74.9
Top 20 vs. 2010 143,441,288 182,998,695 -21.6

Last Updated: February 14, 2011 at 4:50PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.