Weekend Box Office: Immortals Slays Jack & Jill, Puss In Boots Still The Cat’s Meow

There’s no secret formula on how a mini-major studio finds success in Hollywood. While Fox Searchlight may be an arm of the much bigger 20th Century Fox, it has been able to find that perfect balance of critical acclaim and box office success for such films as Juno, Little Miss Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire. Relativity Media is still young with comes to distributing films (it became a distributor back in 2010), but for it’s been able to stem the tide of bad box office performance of Season of the Witch, The Warrior’s Way and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer with its Bradley Cooper-starring Limitless, which became a surprise hit in the spring with $79 million in earnings.

This weekend, Relativity scored a hit with Immortals, opening above expectations with $32 million. Tarsem Singh’s third feature did just enough to be victorious over the Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill. The opening was easily Relativity’s best to date, and I’m sure its nods to 300 in terms of its look helped to cater to those who enjoyed that flick. Having the ads proclaim the film as being from the “producers of 300” probably helped, too. While I’ve yet to see it, we did praise the film’s impressive visuals though the two critics were divided in overall enjoyment.

Opening strong is one thing, but next week it has to compete with the new Twilight feature and a Happy Feet sequel. Obviously, those are targeted to different audiences, but if a guy in the relationship pushed his wife or girlfriend into seeing Immortals look for the other half to return the favor with the cinematic wedding of the century of Bella and Edward.

From the moment the trailer first premiered Jack and Jill had turd written all over it. But Sandler has such a strong following that it wouldn’t be unexpected to see his comedies open north of $20 million. For Sandler, this is his 11th straight PG-13 comedy to open above $25 million, and he’s had 12 starring vehicles gross more than $100 million. Still, his movies come at a price – most of Happy Madison productions cost around $80 million. Next year should be interesting for Sandler, as he once again tries his hand with the R-rated I Hate You, Dad, a comedy that features James Caan, Susan Sarandon, Ian Ziering from the original Beverly Hills, 90210, Vanilla Ice, and the Willis in “What You Talkin’ About, Willis?” Todd Bridges.

Puss in Boots continues to hold strong after its weak opening two weeks ago. In three weeks it has crossed $100 million in the U.S. and performing even better overseas. Early word is that Happy Feet Two isn’t tracking all that well so while it may take a hit next weekend, look for the Shrek spin-off to get a boost Thanksgiving weekend. Good critical acclaim plus a very good CinemaScore will make it a winner well into December.

Tower Heist is a bad comedy and a worse heist film, and its 45% drop in attendance supports this. You know things are bad when more people are talking about Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy bowing out of next year’s Oscars than last week’s no. 2 release. Ratner is a fratboy who runs his mouth and likes paycheck movies, not making films. Murphy also likes paychecks but hasn’t had a funny role since Bowfinger. Sorry Imagine That fans.

J. Edgar dropped on less than two thousand screens and had the fourth-best per-screen average of films in the top 10. Less than 2,000 screens makes it a limited release, but its critical drubbing wasn’t enough to sway its “B” CinemaScore rating. If Warner Bros. is to expand the feature it best decide if it wants to mount an Oscar campaign. Other than DiCaprio the film will struggle to net nominations outside of technical categories (hopefully not for make-up).

The bottom half of the top 10 is a wasteland of nuked cinema leftovers: a weak Christmas comedy (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas), a not ready for prime-time Justin Timberlake starring vehicle (In Time), the prequel for Paranormal Activity: Looking 4 More Money, the ’80s retread Footloose and Rock’Em Sock’EM Robots: The Movie.

New films at the arthouse include Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss which played on 12 screens and collected $50.8k. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (aka Elite Squad 2) played on a single screen in New York and grabbed $9.5k. Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, though also available via VOD, pulled an impressive $270k on 19 screens. Like Crazy added 54 new screens bringing its total to 70 and earned $525k as a result. Fox Searchlight’s 4M film, Martha Marcy May Marlene added 85 new screens and had a $490k weekend. It has now earned $1.7 million after four weeks.

That does it for the weekend box office report. Tune in next week to see how the top ten looks with the additions of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and Happy Feet Two, plus Alexander Payne’s The Descendants in limited release.

1. Immortals – $32 million
2. Jack and Jill – $26 million
3. Puss In Boots $25.5 million ($156 million worldwide)
4. Tower Heist – $13.2 million ($43.9 million)
5. J. Edgar – $11.5 million
6. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas – $5.9 million ($23.2 million)
7. In Time – $4.15 million ($30.6 million)
8. Paranormal Activity 3 – $3.6 million ($189 million worldwide)
9. Footloose – $2.7 million ($48.8 million)
10. Real Steel – $2 million ($256 million worldwide)

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