Weekend Box Office (March 20 - 22, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers still love Nicolas Cage action flicks as the actor's latest film, the doomsday thriller Knowing, easily beat out two other new releases to capture the top spot at the North American box office. Opening in second and third respectively were the buddy comedy I Love You, Man starring Paul Rudd and the Julia Roberts-Clive Owen spy pic Duplicity. With the trio of new titles pulling in over $56M, most holdovers suffered sizable drops as the overall marketplace lagged behind last year's numbers by a slim margin.

Scoring his eleventh number one opening since winning an Oscar in 1996, Cage led the effects-driven actioner Knowing to a strong $24.6M debut, according to final studio figures. The Summit release averaged a potent $7,384 from 3,332 theaters and gave the young studio its second number one opener in four months. The company's vampire smash Twilight hit the top of the charts during its November launch and hit DVD this weekend with its Saturday street date. Knowing, which finds Cage playing a professor who discovers a code that can predict future disasters, was rated PG-13 and played evenly to males and females according to studio research. The audience was older as 63% of the crowd was 25 or over. Critics mostly pointed their thumbs down, but ticket buyers didn't care.

The male bonding comedy I Love You, Man debuted in second with $17.8M for Paramount. Starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segal, the R-rated laugher averaged an impressive $6,570 from 2,711 locations and performed much like the last comedies from each actor. Rudd's Role Models bowed to $19.2M last November while Segal's Forgetting Sarah Marshall opened to $17.7M last April. Both carried R ratings and played to young adults just like Man reaching final tallies of $67.3M and $62.9M, respectively. Reviews were generally positive.

Julia Roberts and Clive Owen debuted in third place with their caper pic Duplicity which grossed $14M from 2,574 theaters for a solid $5,425 average. Universal's PG-13 film about former spies that plot a con operation against a pair of corporations marked Roberts' first lead role in a live-action wide opener in more than five years. During that time, the Oscar-winning actress took many supporting roles in films that were not anchored by her like Ocean's Twelve and Charlie Wilson's War. This time around she was the main star and settled for third place, but still posted numbers that were very respectable. Openings for her films from the early part of this decade include $11.5M for 2003's Mona Lisa Smile, $20.1M for The Mexican, and $28.1M for 2000's Erin Brockovich. Reviews were decent and the adult female audience could continue to show up in the weeks to come. Duplicity had the best Friday-to-Saturday bump among the weekend's new releases with 27% compared to Knowing's 9% and I Love You, Man's 7%.

Even with no new family films opening, Disney's PG-rated adventure Race to Witch Mountain still suffered a sizable drop falling 48% to $12.8M in its second weekend. After ten days, the Dwayne Johnson starrer has banked $44.5M. Race is nearly on par with Johnson's last kid-friendly offering for the studio, 2007's The Game Plan, although it opened stronger and is falling harder. Game Plan bowed to $23M and dipped only 28% in the second frame for a ten-day tally of $43.2M on its way to a $90.6M final. With DreamWorks charging into theaters aggressively on Friday with its 3D toon Monster vs. Aliens which could generate the biggest opening of the year, the Disney actioner may see more big declines ahead ending its run with $80-85M.

In its third weekend, the comic flick Watchmen fell another 62% and grossed $6.8M raising the 17-day cume to $98.1M for Warner Bros. At its current trajectory, the final domestic gross should finish with about $110M. Universal's horror redo The Last House on the Left also fell hard dropping to $5.8M in its sophomore frame, down 59%, for a total of $23.9M in ten days.

The Fox companies followed with their $130M+ blockbusters. Liam Neeson's Taken took in $4.1M in seventh place, off 38%, for a sum of $133.1M. Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire dropped 47% to $2.7M putting its gross to date at $137.2M.

Falling to ninth place was Madea Goes to Jail with $2.6M, off 50%, and a total of $87.3M for Lionsgate. The Focus 3D hit Coraline slipped only 22% and pulled in $2.1M in its seventh round. Cume is $72.8M. Each film is now the second biggest grosser ever for its distributor trailing Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.2M for Lionsgate) and Brokeback Mountain ($83M for Focus) respectively. Coincidentally, Slumdog is Searchlight's number two all-time hit but still has a chance of surpassing the $143.5M of Juno.

The top ten films grossed $93.2M which was down 2% from last year when Horton Hears A Who remained in the top spot with $24.6M; and down 20% from 2007 when TMNT opened at number one with $24.3M.

Compared to projections, Knowing powered ahead of my $15M forecast while I Love You, Man was on target with my $18M prediction. Duplicity was close to my $16M projection.

Be sure to check the NEW chart of the top ten films of 2009 versus the top ten from same period last year.

For a NEW DVD review of Twilight visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Monsters vs. Aliens, The Haunting in Connecticut, and 12 Rounds all open.

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

# Title Mar 20 - 22 Mar 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Knowing $ 24,604,751 3,332 1 $ 7,384 $ 24,604,751 Summit
2 I Love You, Man 17,810,270 2,711 1 6,570 17,810,270 Paramount
3 Duplicity 13,965,110 2,574 1 5,425 13,965,110 Universal
4 Race to Witch Mountain 12,786,041 24,402,214 -47.6 3,187 2 4,012 44,496,593 Buena Vista
5 Watchmen 6,801,114 17,817,301 -61.8 3,510 3 1,938 98,140,886 Warner Bros.
6 The Last House on the Left 5,776,160 14,118,685 -59.1 2,402 2 2,405 23,902,420 Universal
7 Taken 4,057,695 6,568,651 -38.2 2,661 8 1,525 133,096,403 Fox
8 Slumdog Millionaire 2,676,369 5,002,777 -46.5 2,067 19 1,295 137,178,177 Fox Searchlight
9 Madea Goes to Jail 2,566,535 5,108,532 -49.8 1,835 5 1,399 87,264,219 Lionsgate
10 Coraline 2,130,746 2,718,231 -21.6 1,431 7 1,489 72,841,173 Focus
11 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 1,842,984 3,119,151 -40.9 1,762 10 1,046 141,052,214 Sony
12 He's Just Not That Into You 1,250,201 2,939,484 -57.5 1,302 7 960 91,544,583 Warner Bros.
13 Confessions of a Shopaholic 741,893 1,941,638 -61.8 917 6 809 42,928,251 Buena Vista
14 Gran Torino 740,137 1,505,408 -50.8 825 15 897 145,095,330 Warner Bros.
15 Fired Up 701,639 1,645,380 -57.4 1,209 5 580 16,755,117 Sony
16 Sunshine Cleaning 671,618 219,190 206.4 64 2 10,494 960,041 Overture
17 Miss March 664,351 2,409,156 -72.4 1,742 2 381 4,121,295 Fox Searchlight
18 The Reader 535,983 1,309,669 -59.1 704 15 761 32,900,557 Weinstein Co.
19 Hotel for Dogs 403,092 577,927 -30.3 522 10 772 70,906,136 Paramount
20 Under the Sea 3D 372,624 307,265 21.3 54 5 6,900 3,886,959 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 75,967,286 $ 68,015,383 11.7
Top 10 93,174,791 84,204,182 10.7
Top 20 101,099,313 94,512,220 7.0
Top 20 vs. 2008 101,099,313 106,791,035 -5.3

Last Updated: March 23, 2009 at 6:45PM ET