Women, so often underestimated in moviemaking strategy, were the driving force at the box office this weekend.
They propelled Warner Bros.’ "He’s Just Not that Into You" to the number one spot, far surpassing projections by taking in $27.5 million out of the date night crowd. That’s a figure that could make a dent in the salaries of the ensemble’s stars Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, and Jennifer Connelly.
Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office data site Media By Numbers, said that the weekend box office was driven mainly by a female audience. "Women are still being underestimated, despite last year’s ‘Hannah Montana,’ ‘Sex and the City,’ and ‘Twilight,’" Dergarabedian told TheWrap. "People thought ‘Into You’ would perform in the low 20s. I think it was really impressive."
Another surprise was the strong performance of "Coraline," a stop-motion animated children’s horror film, based on the book by Neil Gaiman. That box office take of $16.3 million — far above expectations – was also "somewhat female-driven, with a female protagonist," said Dergarabedian.
The stop-motion animated "Cora" also got a boost from parents looking to entertain their broods on a recession-era budget and from weary adults seeking to escape into pure Neil Gaiman/Henry Selick fantasy.
"Going to the movies is the new family vacation," Dergarabedian said. "You don’t have to feel super guilty about spending money to take the family…. People still find solace in movies, still a relatively inexpensive proposition."
Unfortunately for Sony, moviegoers preferred to escape to Luc Besson’s Paris with vigilante Liam Neeson than to fumble along with Inspector Clouseau. In its second week, "Taken" took in $20.3 million, pushing its total domestic gross thus far to $53.4 million. The poorly reviewed "The Pink Panther 2" suffered a pratfall into the fourth spot with only $12 million, just a hair more than the $11 million its brother-in-wackiness "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" made in its fourth week.
"’Paul Blart’ only dropped 21% from its opening weekend. "It’s cornering the market on broad-based silly comedy," noted Dergarabedian. "’Paul Blart’ is fulfilling that goofy comedy need. It’s kind of inexplicable. There’s something about the mall cop that appeals to people. Maybe people can’t buy anything in the mall, but they can still laugh at that guy."
SUNDAY BOX OFFICE ESTIMATE:
|RANK||TITLE||WEEKS||GROSS||PER SCREEN AVG.||TOTAL|
|1||He’s Just Not That Into You (Warner Bros.)||1||$27.5m||$8,650||$27.5m|
|4||Pink Panther 2 (Sony/MGM)||1||$12.0m||$3,700||$12.0m|
|5||Paul Blart: Mall Cop(Sony/Columbia)||4||$11.0m||$3,471||$97.0m|
|6||Push (Summit Ent.)||1||$10.2m||$4,412||$10.2m|
|7||Slumdog Millionaire(Fox Searchlight)||13||$7.4m||$4,292||$77.4m|
|8||Gran Torino (Warner Bros.)||9||$7.2m||$2,677||$120.3m|
|9||The Uninvited (Paramount)||2||$6.4m||$2,730||$18.4m|
|10||Hotel for Dogs (Paramount)||4||$5.8m||$2,129||$55.2m|
Here are the estimated weekend totals from studio insider sources, based on Friday numbers:
"He’s Just Not That Into You" – $30 million
"Taken" – $20.4 million
"Coraline" – $16.6 million
"The Pink Panther 2" – $11.5 million
"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" – $10.9 million
"Push" – $10.0 million
"Slumdog Millionaire" – $7.3 million
"Gran Torino" – $7.3 million.
It’ll be lovesick versus slapstick at the box office this weekend as two big-budget, big-star comedies attempt to unseat Fox’s thriller “Taken” in the number one spot. Warner Bros. intends to butter up moviegoers this weekend with an early valentine, the romantic comedy “He’s Just Not that Into You.” Sony will set its sights on the family crowd with Steve Martin’s second go at bumbling Inspector Clouseau, “The Pink Panther 2.” Both features open on 3,000 screens.
Based on Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s best-selling, ultraslim advice book of the same name, “Into You” is a Rashomon-style story about Baltimore singles decoding the many mixed signals in the dating world. “Into You”’s producers–including co-star Drew Barrymore–are clearly aiming for some Sex and the City business, and it’s likely that star Jennifer Aniston’s fans–who have contributed to “Marley and Me”’s $140 million domestic gross–will once again open their wallets. Warners has also cleverly reached out to a more manly crowd with an iTunes short featuring the film’s Kevin Connolly, Justin Long, and Bradley Cooper explaining why “Into You” is “not your typical chick flick.”
Critically, the romance has already won a significant victory over the farce by scoring 80% on RottenTomatoes, in contrast to a paltry five percent for “Panther.” 2006’s “Pink Panther” took in $82 million domestically, an impressive take until you consider the film’s $80 million production price tag. John Cleese, who replaces Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, is also generating decent buzz.
"Panther" will have some competition for the family audience with Universal and Focus Features’ "Coraline," the first high-def stop-motion animated feature to be filmed in 3D. Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel, the kid-friendly fantasy features the voices of Dakota Fanning and Terri Hatcher and marks the second collaboration between "Corpse Bride" production company Laika Entertainment and director Henry Selick ("The Nightmare Before Christmas," "James and the Giant Peach"). A generous 88% rating on RottenTomatoes.com—the highest of this week’s openers–bodes well for "Cora," opening in 2,100 theatres.
Lastly, Summit Entertainment’s $38 million “Push” could pick up interest from the rabid teen “Twilight” audience. The sci-fi thriller about a cabal of teens with telekinetic powers hiding from the U.S. government stars Dakota Fanning. Look for a few hipsters confusing the film and recent Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire wandering into Dakota territory.