Weekend Wrap-Up for January 18-20, 2008

By John Hamann

January 20, 2008

Why is the one girl the only one willing to say the pledge?

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The first long weekend of the year has paid huge rewards for a number of studios this weekend, but it's the exhibitors who will be smiling after receipts are counted. New releases include Paramount's Cloverfield from JJ Abrams and Fox's 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl - two films with breakout possibilities. BOP's Reagen Sulewski was looking for Cloverfield to finish on top with about $45 million, and 27 Dresses well back - but still successful - with about $22 million. Would the latest and greatest monster movie bust out, or break up? Read on to find out.

Our number one film of the weekend is Cloverfield, JJ Abrams' new Blair Witch meets Godzilla monster movie. After several weeks of nicely calculated hype, Cloverfield opened very strongly, earning a powerful $41 million over the three-day portion of the weekend. Paramount sent this one out to a shrewd 3,411 venues, and the monster movie throwback earned an average of $12,020. This amount sets the January record for the largest opening as Cloverfield comfortably vaults ahead of the re-release of Star Wars, which earned $35.9 million on the last day of January in 1997. The top Martin Luther King opener was Black Hawk Down, as the Ridley Scott flick took in $33.6 million over its first three days. As you can see, this is a huge victory for Paramount, but not only for its huge opening gross. Cloverfield cost Paramount and Bad Robot (Abrams' production company) only $35 million to make, so this studio picture has out-grossed its production budget in weekend one and should be seeing an actual profit after weekend two. This is the kind of feat that rarely happens in Hollywood, unless you‘re Tyler Perry.


Cloverfield is a breakout success for producer JJ Abrams, who had a lot riding on it. Abrams was the 'one to watch' after driving the Lost and Alias TV series to extraordinary heights, but then lost some ground when Mission: Impossible III, which he wrote and directed, didn't turn into the huge hit it should have been. Cloverfield returns Abrams (who looks like Justin Theroux's character in Mullholland Drive) to the top of the pack. All eyes will be on his upcoming Star Trek reincarnation.

While the marketing campaign for Cloverfield was just about perfect, reviews and release date took this one over the top. At first, I thought critics were going trash Cloverfield for its shaky handycam style, but I was pleasantly surprised to see many comments rise above how it was shot. At RottenTomatoes, 113 reviews were counted, and of them, a surprising 86 were positive, leaving Cloverfield with a 76% fresh rating. The reviews went hand in hand with Paramount's choice of releasing this one over the long weekend, but I have to wonder what they were thinking when Fox moved 27 Dresses back one weekend just weeks before its release date. Paramount had the weekend basically to itself, and then all of the sudden had to share the weekend with a chick flick. Obviously (as I will get to below), there was enough room for both films. Cloverfield is a movie that gives the first month of 2008 a welcome boost, and I can only hope that there are many small, effective films like this in the year to come.

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