Paul Blart, Valentine, Notorious Rule MLK Weekend
By John Hamann
January 18, 2009
Hollywood is on a roll. After opening 2009 with two extremely successful weekends, Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend is already upon us, and we have a blowout weekend at the box office. Box office analysts are well aware of the fact that the MLK Jr. holiday weekend has become a lucrative period. Even allowing for this, what happened during this frame is miraculous, as we just had one of the ten biggest box office weekends of all-time.
Debuting films include Hotel For Dogs (the third high-profile live-action dog movie in recent months), Paul Blart: Mall Cop with funny-man Kevin James, the rap-bio Notorious about Biggie Smalls, and My Bloody Valentine 3-D. We also had expanding films in Defiance with Daniel Craig and Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in Last Chance Harvey. Add to that a strong list of Oscar contenders and holiday films, and we have a blow out weekend at the box office. What is most shocking, though is that the first four of these releases would have been among the 20 best January opening weekends (not platform expansions) of all time...had it not been for one another.
Sony's surprisingly strong Paul Blart: Mall Cop leads the way, as comedy reigns over this extremely interesting weekend. From Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company, Paul Blart managed a very strong $33.8 million over three-days from a very wide 3,144 venues. It had a venue average of $10,751. Most shocking of all is that Paul Blart: Mall Cop is the second-biggest January opener ever, behind only Cloverfield's $40.1 million. The Kevin James comedy relied on a quite funny trailer and TV ad which Sony has been pushing hard since shortly after Christmas, and the strong marketing campaign paid off. The comedy would have drawn a very broad audience, from the very old to the very young.
Kevin James has made quite a name for himself following an almost ten-year run on the CBS sitcom King of Queens. Towards the end of the run for Queens, James made Hitch with Will Smith, a film that opened to $43 million, earned $177 million domestically and took in another $189 million in foreign grosses. He then did I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry with Adam Sandler, and despite being somewhat socially backward, it opened to $34 million, finished domestically with $120 million and earned another $130 million from foreign tickets and DVD sales. With this kind of success, James's own film was sure to be on the horizon, and now we have another success in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The biggest difference between his two earlier films and Mall Cop is budget. Hitch and Chuck and Larry cost a combined $140 million, whereas Paul Blart: Mall Cop cost Sony and Happy Madison only $25 million to make. That means Paul Blart has already beaten its production budget and will see real profit by the end of next weekend.
Of course, film quality is not on the menu with Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but judging by the TV ad, that was never in the cards. Its lack of any sort of seriousness might be why it was so successful. The Sony comedy had 69 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes at the time of this writing, and only 19 were positive, leaving this one with a 28% fresh rating. If you thought reviews were going to be better, you should have your head checked. Again, tough economic times lead to films like this. They are check-your-brain types of movies, but I bet you laugh at least a few times.