Weekend Box Office (February 18 - 21, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Liam Neeson's latest European-set single-word-titled action thriller Unknown debuted at number one over the long four-day Presidents' Day frame while the hit 3D toon Gnomeo & Juliet gave the Oscar-nominated star a run for his money thanks to terrific staying power that allowed it to follow close behind in second. The sci-fi alien flick I Am Number Four debuted in third place while fellow newcomer Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son launched in fifth with each averaging roughly $7,000. Overall ticket sales fell behind the same holiday frames from the last two years. It was the first Presidents' Day weekend in five years with no films breaking $30M.

Debuting to $25.5M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday span, according to final studio figures, Neeson's Unknown took the top spot and averaged a solid $8,364 over four days from 3,043 sites. The PG-13 film about an American in Berlin whose identity has been taken after a car accident leaves him in a coma played to a mature adult crowd and performed much like his 2009 sleeper hit Taken which opened on top over Super Bowl weekend to $24.7M over three days ahead of a $145M run. With Oscar-nominated dramas being the only other films playing to the over-30 set in recent weeks, Unknown arrived as an exciting-looking alternative with a well-liked star. Reviews were mixed but on the same level as those for Taken.

Jumping up one spot to number two was the animated hit Gnomeo & Juliet which collected $25.4M over four days exactly matching its three-day opening figure. With strong word-of-mouth, more kids available because of the school holiday, and no competition from any other kidpics, Gnomeo held up incredibly well pushing its 11-day total to $56.4M and now seems likely to break the $100M mark. Gnomeo easily beat Unknown on Monday with one-day sales of $6.3M vs. $3.6M.

The sci-fi actioner I Am Number Four, Disney's first release of a DreamWorks production, opened in third place with $22.8M playing to teens and young adults. Averaging a decent $7,215 from 3,154 locations, the PG-13 adaptation of the popular novel featured no major stars and relied on fans of the book and on teens interested in a high school tale. Reviews were not too kind. It was expected by many to open at number one.

Dropping from first to fourth in its second weekend was the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It which grossed $21.6M. Sony's latest pic from the bankable funnyman upped its sum to $64.1M in ten days and has a good shot of hitting $100M. That would allow Sandler to claim nine-digit hits in nine of the last ten years.

Martin Lawrence's return to the fat suit brought him a fifth place debut for the Fox comedy sequel Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son which grossed $18.7M over four days. Averaging $6,641 from 2,821 locations, the PG-13 film fell well short of the three-day $25.7M opening of Big Momma's House from June 2000 as well as the $27.7M of its followup in January 2006. The new Momma, which features second-generation cross-dressing, was not screened for critics by their deadlines, but once reviews started appearing they were among the worst for any film in months.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never fell 56% to $16.4M in its sophomore frame which was not too bad given that it is a 3D concert biopic meant to draw hysterical fans upfront. Paramount kept the publicity attacks going past the opening weekend allowing the 11-day total to climb to $51.2M. Produced for just $13M, the G-rated pic looks set to finish its run with $70M or so.

Oscar favorite The King's Speech crossed the $100M mark this weekend and enjoyed another remarkable hold dipping to $8.1M. That pushed the cume for The Weinstein Co. to a stellar $104.8M with $125M or more possible by the end of the run. Sony's college thriller The Roommate followed with $4.5M for a $33.1M total.

Audiences fled from Channing Tatum as his historical action epic The Eagle tumbled to $4.3M for a weak tally of $15.8M after 11 days for Focus. Natalie Portman rounded out the top ten with her comedy No Strings Attached which took in $3.6M for $66.5M to date. Her Oscar contender Black Swan broke the $100M barrier right before the start of the weekend.

The top ten films over four days grossed $150.7M which was down 29% from last year's Presidents' Day frame when Valentine's Day opened in the top spot with $63.1M over four days; and down 14% from 2009's holiday when Friday the 13th debuted at number one with $43.6M.

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Check the UPDATED box office chart for the Oscar Nominee Grosses.

For a NEW review of I Am Number Four visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Hall Pass, Drive Angry, and Shelter all open over Oscar weekend.

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# Title Feb 18 - 21 Feb 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Unknown $ 25,453,015 3,043 1 $ 8,364 $ 25,453,015 Warner Bros.
2 Gnomeo & Juliet 25,415,717 25,356,909 0.2 3,014 2 8,433 56,436,249 Disney
3 I Am Number Four 22,755,854 3,154 1 7,215 22,755,854 Disney
4 Just Go With It 21,581,024 30,514,732 -29.3 3,548 2 6,083 64,136,988 Sony
5 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son 18,735,026 2,821 1 6,641 18,735,026 Fox
6 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 16,364,188 29,514,054 -44.6 3,118 2 5,248 51,236,937 Paramount
7 The King's Speech 8,063,897 7,230,790 11.5 2,086 13 3,866 104,775,873 Weinstein Co.
8 The Roommate 4,468,309 8,126,025 -45.0 2,160 3 2,069 33,061,873 Sony
9 The Eagle 4,333,044 8,684,464 -50.1 2,296 2 1,887 15,840,242 Focus
10 No Strings Attached 3,576,797 5,810,291 -38.4 1,966 5 1,819 66,490,084 Paramount
11 True Grit 2,885,736 3,785,344 -23.8 1,465 9 1,970 164,603,239 Paramount
12 Sanctum 1,968,990 5,661,705 -65.2 1,377 3 1,430 22,277,775 Universal
13 The Green Hornet 1,938,216 3,673,909 -47.2 1,265 6 1,532 95,600,502 Sony
14 The Fighter 1,910,835 2,165,480 -11.8 759 11 2,518 88,322,333 Paramount
15 Black Swan 1,608,916 2,122,555 -24.2 656 12 2,453 101,817,991 Fox Searchlight
16 The Rite 1,312,299 3,252,360 -59.7 1,048 4 1,252 31,574,684 Warner Bros.
17 The Mechanic 1,194,515 3,202,921 -62.7 952 4 1,255 28,077,208 CBS Films
18 Cedar Rapids 1,089,297 302,968 259.5 102 2 10,679 1,490,775 Fox Searchlight
19 Tangled 743,090 813,849 -8.7 389 13 1,910 194,306,677 Disney
20 Biutiful 633,053 580,245 9.1 156 4 4,058 3,133,104 Roadside Attr.
Top 5 $ 113,940,636 $ 102,196,184 11.5
Top 10 150,746,871 128,358,223 17.4
Top 20 166,031,818 143,441,288 15.7
Top 20 vs. Prez Day 2010 166,031,818 233,432,268 -28.9

Last Updated: February 22, 2011 at 5:00PM ET

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