‘Shutter Island’ Buoys Friday Box Office

Paramount film delivers Scorsese and DiCaprio their biggest opening ever at $14M

Last Updated: February 21, 2010 @ 10:11 AM

Saturday box-office update:

Paramount’s messy delay of Martin Scorsese film "Shutter Island" seems to have helped more than it hurt, with the R-rated movie opening on the high end of pre-release expectations and grossing $14 million at the domestic box office Friday, according to studio estimates.

Debuting in 2,991 theaters, the film is on pace to exceed $40 million through Sunday, which would make it the biggest opener ever for both Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio.

The only film to open wide this weekend, "Shutter Island" easily surpassed several notable holdovers, including last weekend’s box-office champion, Warner’s "Valentine’s Day," which declined over 60 percent from its premiere a week earlier and grossed $5.7 million.

Fox PG fantasy film "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" also dropped nearly 60 percent from its debut, finishing third with nearly $4 million.

Fox’s "Avatar," meanwhile, continues to wind down slowly in its 10th week of release, dropping 14 percent week to week with a $3.9 million gross.

In its third week, Sony/Screen Gems romantic drama "Dear John" surpassed $60 million in cumulative gross Friday with a $2.4 million performance.

Among films opening in limited release this weekend, Summit Entertainment’s Roman Polanski-directed "The Ghost Writer" grossed $49,000 Friday playing in four New York and Los Angeles locations. The film is set to expand its run next weekend.

As for the No. 1 film, Paramount had originally planned to debut "Shutter Island" last fall, but moved the film to February in order to keep the prints and advertising costs off its 2009 books.

The move was made after trailers and other marketing collateral had already been released last summer, giving moviegoers about a nine-month run-up of pre-release exposure.

The $75 million movie — about a U.S. Marshal investigating the disapperance of an inmate at a dreary Cold War-era mental hospital — also benefitted from promotion during high-rated CBS’ Super Bowl coverage.

Here’s a look at the top 10 at the domestic box office on Friday:

“Shutter Island” ($14.0m)
“Valentine’s Day” ($5.7m)
“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” ($4.0m)
“Avatar” ($3.9m)
“The Wolfman” ($2.9m)
“Dear John” ($2.4m)
“The Tooth Fairy” ($1.1m)
“Crazy Heart” ($762,000)
“From Paris with Love” ($716,000)
“Edge of Darkness” ($615,000)

Thursday preview:

Dominated by the romantic-themed “Dear John” and “Valentine’s Day” over the last few weeks, the domestic box office will turn down a darker path Friday, with the release of Martin Scorsese’s R-rated “Shutter Island.”

The movie has experienced some fits and starts. Paramount first planned to release it last fall, but moved it to the first quarter — after marketing collateral had been sent out — to defer the cost of prints and advertising to the 2010 books.

The waffling, however, doesn’t seem to have hurt the pre-release box-office tracking for the $75 million film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a federal marshal investigating the disappearance of an inmate at a Cold War-era hospital for the criminally insane.

In fact, tracking from various studio sources indicates “Shutter Island” will gross well over $30 million through Sunday — perhaps as much as $40 million.

Also opening this weekend: Summit Entertainment’s Roman Polanski-directed thriller “Ghost Writer,” in just four New York and Los Angeles locations.

Which means new-release-wise, “Shutter Island” will have the box-office pretty much to itself.

Competing for the number-two spot: the demographically dissimilar holdovers “Valentine’s Day” from Warner Bros. and Fox’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.”

Universal’s also-R-rated “The Wolfman” will provide some competition for “Shutter Island” among adult audiences. But based on the classic-horror remake’s mediocre word-of-mouth — it scored a C-plus score from moviegoer research firm CinemaScore — that audience should be widely available to “Shutter Island,” which will open in just under 3,000 locations.

Demographic data also favors the film, with all four audience “quadrants” — young males, older men, young females and older women — reporting strong awareness of the Scorsese picture, as well as intent to see it.

“We probably benefited from having the trailer out in the marketplace a little longer than normal,” said Paramount distribution chief Don Harris, noting that the “Shutter Island” trailer began running over the summer.

If pre-release projections hold up, “Shutter Island” would deliver both Scorsese and DiCaprio their best openings ever.

Scorsese had his best debut four years ago with “The Departed, which opened to $26.9 million before going on to win Oscars for Best Picture and Director.

For his part, DiCaprio — who has starred in three previous Scorsese movies, including “The Departed” — scored his best opening in 2002 with the Steven Spielberg-directed “Catch Me if You Can” ($30.1 million).­­

Reviews for “Shutter Island” have been fair, with aggregator Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film in the 65 percent fresh zone.

Set to go wide next weekend, “Ghost Writer,” starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrell, has gotten a much warmer reception from critics, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an 87 percent rating.

Also likely to factor into the box office after 10 weeks of release, Fox’s “Avatar” is projected to gross more than $20 million this weekend.