Weekend Box Office (February 19 - 21, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio scored the biggest openings of their careers with the psychological thriller Shutter Island, the fourth teaming between the two men, which easily led the North American box office. With no other films debuting in wide release, the rest of the top ten was filled with holdovers, most of which dropped by more than 50% from last weekend's record holiday session. The top ten films beat out year-ago levels, however the Top 20 fell behind last year's performance due to the current marketplace's lack of depth.

Moviegoers spent the weekend with the criminally insane as the mystery thriller Shutter Island debuted at number one with $41.1M, according to final studio figures. Paramount launched the R-rated film in 2,991 theaters and averaged a strong $13,729 per site. Previous bests for the men were $26.9M for the director's The Departed and $30.1M for the actor's Catch Me If You Can. Last August, the studio surprised the industry by moving Shutter from October 2 (the same slot that worked wonders for Departed) to this current weekend. While the date change took the film out of this winter's awards season, it allowed the pic to squeeze more value from its marketing materials. Plus the studio was able to run a very well-received TV spot during the Super Bowl two weeks ago to help heighten excitement.

Shutter Island scored the sixth biggest opening in February and the third best for an R-rated film. It was also the second highest for 2010 behind just Valentine's Day from last weekend. Studio research showed that the $75M production played evenly among males and females as well as with those over and under 25. Reviews were good overall but critics were not ecstatic. Scorsese's films have typically been more artsy and have almost always debuted to less than $12M from more narrow releases. Shutter was a more commercial vehicle and was sold as a mainstream thriller from an Oscar-winning filmmaker which was all that was needed to convince ticket buyers.

After a huge top spot debut, the romantic comedy Valentine's Day couldn't score a second date with audiences as the Warner Bros. release tumbled by a disturbing 70% to $16.7M. But it was still a good showing for a film of its type in the sophomore frame and helped to boost the ten-day tally to a solid $86.9M. Much of the decline was due to Sunday's take which fell sharply from last Sunday which was Valentine's Day. Compared to last weekend's daily grosses, the PG-13 film dropped 61% on Friday, 60% on Saturday, but a steep 84% on Sunday. A final tally of $120-130M seems likely.

The unstoppable Na'vi pic Avatar climbed one spot to third with $16.2M, off only 31%, boosting the record-shattering total to $688M. James Cameron is on track to score the first-ever $700M-grossing blockbuster by next Sunday, the last day of February. Overseas, the Best Picture contender collected an estimated $51M, off only 14%, boosting the international total to $1.78 billion and the worldwide tally to $2.47 billion. The overseas share of the global haul is now 72%.

Fox claimed fourth place too with the fantasy adventure Percy Jackson & The Olympians which dropped 51% to $15.3M in its second round. The PG-rated effects pic has banked $58.7M in ten days and has a shot at breaking the $100M mark by the end of its run. Universal's monster flick The Wolfman suffered a 69% fall to $9.9M and lifted its cume to $50.4M in ten days. Produced for over $100M, the R-rated thriller should finish with around $70M.

Former chart-topper Dear John ranked sixth with $7.1M, off 56%, giving Sony $65.8M to date. Playing to a slightly different audience, The Tooth Fairy slipped only 28% to $4.4M for a $49.7M sum for Fox.

The studio's fourth title in the top ten came from Fox Searchlight's Oscar contender Crazy Heart which dipped only 31% to $3M for a $21.5M total thus far. John Travolta's From Paris With Love dropped 52% to $2.7M while Mel Gibson's Edge of Darkness fell 54% to $2.2M. Cumes stand at $21.4M and $40.3M, respectively.

It was an eventful weekend for director Roman Polanski who is currently under house arrest in Switzerland. His newest film The Ghost Writer won him the Silver Lion award for best director at the Berlin International Film Festival and also generated a muscular platform launch in the United States with $183,009 from just four theaters for a sizzling $45,752 average. Bowing in only two locations a piece in New York and Los Angeles, Summit's PG-13 film starring Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall, and Tom Wilkinson earned strong reviews but just a moderate B+ CinemaScore from ticket buyers. Ghost expands into ten more markets on Friday as it continues to roll out across the country.

The top ten films grossed $118.4M which was up 6% from last year when Madea Goes To Jail opened in the top spot with $41M; and up 39% from 2008 when Vantage Point debuted at number one with $22.9M.

Compared to projections, Shutter Island soared higher than my $29M forecast.

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

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top February Openings. For 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 Cop Out and The Crazies both open.

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

# Title Feb 19 - 21 Feb 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Shutter Island $ 41,062,440 2,991 1 $ 13,729 $ 41,062,440 Paramount
2 Valentine's Day 16,665,299 56,260,707 -70.4 3,665 2 4,547 86,927,385 Warner Bros.
3 Avatar 16,240,857 23,611,625 -31.2 2,581 10 6,292 687,962,011 Fox
4 Percy Jackson & The Olympians 15,254,421 31,236,067 -51.2 3,396 2 4,492 58,714,813 Fox
5 The Wolfman 9,895,105 31,479,235 -68.6 3,223 2 3,070 50,363,730 Universal
6 Dear John 7,130,552 16,071,526 -55.6 3,062 3 2,329 65,801,765 Sony
7 The Tooth Fairy 4,354,280 6,054,257 -28.1 2,523 5 1,726 49,721,400 Fox
8 Crazy Heart 2,964,586 4,265,989 -30.5 1,089 10 2,722 21,524,784 Fox Searchlight
9 From Paris With Love 2,661,829 5,495,113 -51.6 2,311 3 1,152 21,361,504 Lionsgate
10 Edge of Darkness 2,243,311 4,841,295 -53.7 2,118 4 1,059 40,347,222 Warner Bros.
11 The Book of Eli 1,888,305 3,631,838 -48.0 1,455 6 1,298 90,775,391 Warner Bros.
12 When in Rome 1,737,917 3,682,881 -52.8 1,627 4 1,068 29,344,987 Buena Vista
13 The Blind Side 1,451,100 2,261,787 -35.8 1,060 13 1,369 247,071,052 Warner Bros.
14 Up in the Air 1,052,036 1,773,750 -40.7 727 11 1,447 80,908,880 Paramount
15 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel 935,085 1,280,651 -27.0 841 8 1,112 215,581,073 Fox
16 Sherlock Holmes 846,490 1,591,601 -46.8 713 9 1,187 205,534,198 Warner Bros.
17 My Name is Khan 700,885 1,944,027 -63.9 125 2 5,607 3,253,168 Fox Searchlight
18 It's Complicated 699,510 1,215,915 -42.5 598 8 1,170 110,724,780 Universal
19 Legion 625,408 1,830,167 -65.8 786 5 796 39,221,554 Sony
20 The Last Station 558,214 514,597 8.5 109 6 5,121 2,162,370 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 99,118,122 $ 158,659,160 -37.5
Top 10 118,472,680 182,998,695 -35.3
Top 20 128,967,630 199,827,086 -35.5
Top 20 vs. 2009 128,967,630 133,929,484 -3.7

Last Updated: February 22, 2010 at 6:45PM ET