Box Office Guru Wrapup: Spartans March Past Rambo to #1

America has chosen wisely.

Moviegoers chose an army of spoof comedians over an aging one-man killing machine as Meet the Spartans outgunned Sylvester Stallone's Rambo to claim the number one spot in a close race at the North American box office. Both new releases walked away with solid performances and should become moneymakers. Ticket buyers also flocked to see the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture with four of the five contenders posting sales increases. Many box office milestones were also reached as Juno surpassed $100M, Alvin and the Chipmunks and National Treasure: Book of Secrets both cracked the $200M mark, and I Am Legend vaulted past the $250M barrier. Overall, the box office remained healthy and showed incredible depth as for the first time ever in the month of January, seven different movies topped $10M in weekend grosses.

Teens and young adults wanted laughs and they got them from Fox's latest spoof comedy Meet the Spartans which won a slim victory with an estimated $18.7M in its opening weekend. The PG-13 pic averaged a muscular $7,188 from 2,605 sites and debuted on par with the studio's other early-year spoof hits Epic Movie which bowed on top to $18.6M a year ago this week and Date Movie which enjoyed a second-place launch in February 2006 with $19.1M. All three films came from Hollywood's current spoof kings Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.

Spartans used the same formula of sending up recent blockbuster hits and pop culture favorites and young people showed up showing no signs of getting sick of the genre. The $18M production featured no A-list stars and instead relied on recognizable faces like muscle man Kevin Sorbo, hip hop star Method Man, spoof queen Carmen Electra, and Borat's Ken Davitian. Date and Epic reached $48.5M and $39.7M respectively so Fox looks to have another profitable venture on its hands.


 

Sylvester Stallone lost out on bragging rights at the box office this weekend, but his new action flick Rambo still performed well opening to an estimated $18.2M. Produced by Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company, the R-rated shoot-em-up vehicle averaged an impressive $6,598 per location. It was the first adventure for the character in nearly two decades following long after 1988's Rambo III. The first three films helped to define the action genre in the 1980s grossing a combined $610M worldwide. As expected, Rambo skewed heavily male with 67% of the audience being men, according to studio research. The age breakdown was evenly split between those over and under the age of 25. Although Rambo settled for the runnerup spot domestically, it should become a much bigger hit overseas than Spartans.

Katherine Heigl's romantic comedy 27 Dresses held up well in its second weekend grossing an estimated $13.6M for a moderate drop of 41%. Fox has collected an impressive $45.3M in the first ten days and could be headed for a $80M finish. Dresses cost $30M to produce.


 

Not as lucky in its sophomore frame was last weekend's top film Cloverfield which tumbled 68% to an estimated $12.7M taking fourth place. The $25M sci-fi actioner has grossed a solid $64.3M in ten days and should end its run with roughly $85M for Paramount.

Diane Lane's new crime thriller Untraceable enjoyed a respectable opening in fifth place with an estimated $11.2M from 2,368 theaters for a solid $4,730 average. The R-rated pic about an internet killer played to young adults with 59% of the audience falling within the 18-34 age range, according to studio research. Sony's latest release was budgeted in the $30M range and played evenly to men and women with females making up 51%.


 

Fox Searchlight's hit comedy Juno became the company's first ever $100M blockbuster over the weekend as its four Academy Award nominations helped to keep the quirky film strong. The pregnancy pic lost 108 theaters but saw its gross inch up 4% to an estimated $10.3M boosting the cume to $100.2M. Oscar buzz has given this year's top-grossing Best Picture nominee renewed interest in the marketplace. Produced for less than $10M, Juno should now find its way to more than $125M domestically.

The Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman flick The Bucket List continued to show strong legs and slipped just 28% to an estimated $10.2M in its third weekend of nationwide release. Cume is $57.7M.


 

Armed with eight Academy Award nominations, Paramount Vantage expanded its oilman saga There Will Be Blood by more than doubling its run and jumped up to the number eight spot with an estimated $4.9M. The Daniel Day-Lewis starrer averaged a solid $5,522 from 885 locations after widening from 389 sites last week. Cume is now $14.8M. The specialty distributor is using a strategy similar to the one employed by Warner Bros. three years ago for Million Dollar Baby by slowly building buzz in late December and January before expanding nationally on the weekend after the Oscar nominations are announced. The wait allows a hard-to-sell pic to gather enough kudos to validate it before making a big push with the paying public. Blood will expand again on Friday reaching 1,350 to 1,500 total sites and hopes to keep the black gold coming in week after week.

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