Openers Dominate Weekend Box Office
By John Hamann
February 8, 2009
After a blistering January at the box office that left movie-going well ahead of last year's sales, February is upon us, and it's time for studios to present their pre-Valentine's Day mini-blockbusters. Up for grabs this weekend are Coraline, the new 3-D stop-motion animated flick from Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick, He's Just Not That Into You, which is really aiming at Valentine's Day next weekend, Push, the new sci-fi actioner from Twilight distributor Summit Entertainment, and The Pink Panther 2, which should never have been greenlighted after the first car accident. With the new films providing big power as well as the second weekend of Taken, we have another frame that's well ahead of last year.
Our number one film over this post-Super Bowl weekend is He's Just Not That Into You, the romantic comedy that stars some of Hollywood's elite, like Drew Barrymore, Jen Aniston, Jennifer Connolly, Scarlett Johansson, and Ben Affleck. That star power, combined with the bestselling book the film is based on, led this one to the top of the box office with a fantastic gross of $27.5 million. He's Just Not That Into You debuted in a massive 3,175 venues, and had an average of $8,650. Distributed by Warner Bros., but produced by Drew Barrymore's Flower Films, this is going to be a large success due to the big opening weekend, and what is sure to be an impressive sophomore frame, as Valentine's Day falls on a Saturday this year.
For Drew Barrymore (and her production company) this was a must needed win. It's been a number of years since Barrymore had a big hit, going back to 2004's 50 First Dates, when she and Adam Sandler conjured up $120 million in domestic sales and $200 million worldwide. Unfortunately for Barrymore, 50 First Dates was a Happy Madison production, not a Flower Films production. We have to go back another year to Charlie Angels: Full Throttle for Flower's last success, and even then, the TV-remake sequel underperformed with an opening weekend of $37 million and a domestic cume of $100.8 million, all against a production budget of $120 million. Since then, Flower Films has produced Fever Pitch (with Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon), which did okay, opening to $12.4 million and finishing with $42 million. That was followed up by the slightly improved Music & Lyrics, which opened to $13.6 million and finished with $50 million.
For He's Just Not That Into You, the production company took a chance on director Ken Kwapis, who has some serious success on television (The Office, Malcolm In the Middle, The Larry Sanders Show), but the opposite at the movies. Most recently Kwapis directed the Robin Williams 2007 comedy License to Wed, which was a moderate success, opening to $10.4 million and finishing with $43 million. Previously, though, there is some ugliness in the director's resume with films like Dunston Checks In, Beautician and the Beast and Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird.
Critics were just not into He's Just Not That Into You. Of the 102 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, only 45 were positive, leaving this one with a 44% fresh rating from general reviewers, and an even worse 32% from the "nation's top critics". These are similar reviews to Sex and the City, and no wonder, as He's Just Not That Into You is from the same writers. With a cast and subject matter like this, He's Just Not That Into You was review-proof, and will be a huge hit come this time next weekend, as I expect an excellent hold, despite being up against Confessions of a Shopaholic.