Weekend Box Office (February 12 - 15, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Proving how starpower can trump reviews at the box office, the romantic comedy Valentine's Day led a wave of three debuting hit films that breathed new life into the marketplace over a record four-day Presidents' Day holiday weekend. Studios underestimated Sunday's grosses as the Valentine's Day holiday fueled big gains as most films made more on Sunday than on Saturday. The top ten collected $64.4M on Saturday but then rose 11% to $71.2M on Sunday. Taking home the silver and bronze medals respectively were the fantasy pic Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and the monster flick The Wolfman with the latter winning the Friday-to-Sunday race but the former leading over the long weekend. Powered by these three big hits, the Top 20 surged to a jaw-dropping $233M over four days, a new all-time high for this holiday.

Moviegoers looking for love lifted the star-studded ensemble comedy Valentine's Day to number one with an astonishing $63.1M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday session, according to final studio figures. It set a new record for the Presidents' Day holiday beating by a wide margin the $52M four-day score of 2007's Ghost Rider while the three-day figure of $56.3M resulted in the third largest opening ever in the month of February behind just 2004's The Passion of the Christ ($83.8M) and 2001's Hannibal ($58M). Warner Bros. launched the PG-13 film ultrawide in 3,665 theaters and averaged a sensational $17,227 across four days. Very few live-action comedies have ever debuted north of $50M in three days making Day's performance remarkable. Those that have included star vehicles (Bruce Almighty's $68M), sequels (Austin Powers in Goldmember's $76.6M) and franchise pics (Sex and the City's $56.8M).

Critics panned Valentine's Day giving it some of the worst reviews of the year so far, but audiences paid no attention and responded to the abundance of stars (Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift among others), a strong marketing push, and the timely release over Valentine's Day weekend. The date pic charmed another $30.4M from overseas audiences in 52 markets for a $94M global gross.

There was a close battle for second place but Fox's Percy Jackson & The Olympians took the runnerup spot by a slim margin with $38.7M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday period in its first weekend. The PG-rated fantasy adventure averaged a solid $11,520 from 3,356 locations. Reviews were mixed, but the best among the three new wide openers. Percy was the only film in the top ten to drop on Sunday from Saturday as it dipped 11%.

Universal debuted its monster movie The Wolfman in third with an estimated $35.6M from 3,222 sites for a muscular $11,035 average. Produced by and starring Benicio Del Toro, the expensive effects-driven R-rated chiller played more to fans of horror and thrillers and stood out from the weekend's other offerings. Reviews were mostly bad. Overseas, it scared up $21M from 37 markets for a worldwide bite of $57M. Over the Friday-to-Sunday period, Wolfman edged out Percy $31.5M to $31.2M.

Together the three new releases grossed a staggering $137.4M over four days. That's nearly twice the $72.1M that last year's trio of new films collected over the same four-day holiday period. In 2008, four films launched over the Presidents' Day frame grossing $90.4M over four days.

Avatar dropped down to fourth place but actually saw its three-day take rise. The Pandora epic took in $23.6M over three days and $28.8M in four days propelling the record cume to $666.4M. The Fox overachiever should shatter the $700M mark before March arrives. Internationally, James Cameron was still on top with another $59M boosting the overseas haul to $1.69 billion and the worldwide tally to an eye-popping $2.36 billion.

The hit tearjerker Dear John fell from its solid first place opening and grossed $18.2M pushing the 11-day tally to $56.1M. The Sony release could end up with an impressive $80-90M. Dwayne Johnson's durable kidpic The Tooth Fairy followed with $8M for a cume of $43.9M in 25 days for Fox.

John Travolta and Mel Gibson followed with their latest action offerings. From Paris With Love grossed $6.4M for a $17.5M sum for Lionsgate. A final of around $25M is likely. Edge of Darkness dropped to $5.6M giving Warner Bros. $37.1M to date.

Fox Searchlight added 186 runs to its Oscar contender Crazy Heart and enjoyed a bump up to $5M. The Jeff Bridges pic has collected $17.5M thus far. Rounding out the top ten was the romantic comedy When in Rome which grossed $4.3M for a $26.9M total.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight's My Name is Khan opened to $1.9M over three days and $2.3M over the four-day holiday frame from 120 theaters setting a new record for the largest opening ever for a Hindi-language film in North America. The PG-13 film starring Shah Rukh Khan topped all films in release this weekend with a $18,875 per-theater average. [Full disclosure: This writer was a consultant on the release of this film.]

The top ten films grossed a stunning $213.5M over four days which was up a healthy 22% from last year's long holiday frame when Friday the 13th opened in the top spot with $43.6M; and up a massive 60% from 2008's holiday when Jumper debuted at number one with $32.1M.

Compared to projections, Valentine's Day, Percy Jackson, and The Wolfman all opened above my respective three-day forecasts of $30M, $21M, and $22M.

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

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top February Openings. For NEW reviews of The Wolfman and My Name is Khan visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Shutter Island opens.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Feb 12 - 15 Feb 5 - 7 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Valentine's Day $ 63,135,312 3,665 1 $ 17,227 $ 63,135,312 Warner Bros.
2 Percy Jackson & The Olympians 38,661,634 3,356 1 11,520 38,661,634 Fox
3 The Wolfman 35,555,065 3,222 1 11,035 35,555,065 Universal
4 Avatar 28,782,849 22,850,881 26.0 2,685 9 10,720 666,388,502 Fox
5 Dear John 18,200,188 30,468,614 -40.3 2,975 2 6,118 56,077,760 Sony
6 The Tooth Fairy 8,005,767 6,629,595 20.8 2,748 4 2,913 43,934,502 Fox
7 From Paris With Love 6,352,780 8,158,860 -22.1 2,722 2 2,334 17,465,570 Lionsgate
8 Edge of Darkness 5,570,476 6,855,371 -18.7 2,615 3 2,130 37,054,157 Warner Bros.
9 Crazy Heart 4,982,062 3,567,671 39.6 1,005 9 4,957 17,509,037 Fox Searchlight
10 When in Rome 4,277,925 5,549,129 -22.9 2,125 3 2,013 26,875,654 Buena Vista
11 The Book of Eli 4,211,221 4,717,335 -10.7 1,825 5 2,308 88,165,452 Warner Bros.
12 The Blind Side 2,667,208 2,503,224 6.6 1,175 12 2,270 245,133,549 Warner Bros.
13 My Name is Khan 2,264,983 120 1 18,875 2,264,983 Fox Searchlight
14 Legion 2,104,565 3,453,651 -39.1 1,424 4 1,478 38,206,460 Sony
15 Up in the Air 2,063,060 2,283,113 -9.6 925 10 2,230 79,501,829 Paramount
16 Sherlock Holmes 1,887,397 2,535,174 -25.6 950 8 1,987 204,350,996 Warner Bros.
17 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel 1,696,335 2,125,922 -20.2 1,057 7 1,605 214,311,806 Fox
18 It's Complicated 1,396,925 2,080,395 -32.9 787 7 1,775 109,741,850 Universal
19 The Princess and the Frog 811,714 443,350 83.1 441 12 1,841 101,951,400 Buena Vista
20 The Lovely Bones 804,802 2,262,399 -64.4 833 7 966 42,962,418 Paramount
Top 5 $ 184,335,048 $ 74,963,321 145.9
Top 10 213,524,058 94,786,281 125.3
Top 20 233,432,268 109,346,499 113.5
Top 20 vs. Prez Day 2009 233,432,268 207,660,683 12.4

Last Updated: February 16, 2010 at 7:00PM ET