SUNDAY AM: Even though they’re getting a divorce after two dysfunctional years, Steven Spielberg and Paramount have still had a successful marriage with films starring Shia LaBoeuf, including Disturbia, Transformers and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. (I suspect DreamWorks and Paramount will work out joint custody of the 22-year-old action star…) Now Shia is in another of their joint PG-13 thrillers, newcomer Eagle Eye, which wound up the #1 pic in North America this weekend with $9.8 million Friday and $12.3 million Saturday from 3,510 theaters for a $29.2M FSS. It was the 4th best September opening of all time. Even so, studios felt the U.S. presidential debate dampened Friday’s box office with young and older males, but numbers bumped up 25% for Saturday. (Paired with the film was the new trailer for Tom Cruise’s Nazi Christmas movie Valkyrie, and UA/MGM boasted to me that it “killed”.)
After a heavy TV marketing campaign, Warner Bros’ mature romantic tearjerker based on the Nicholas Sparks novel Nights In Rodanthe starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere opened surpisingly well. It was No. 2 with $4.7 million Friday and $5.5 million Saturday considering it was only playing in 2,704 venues. Its weekend was $13.5M thanks to the older female quadrant which studios are now starting to recognize and respect. Holdover Lakeview Terrace from Screen Gems/Sony grabbed the #3 spot with a $2.0M Friday and $3.3M Saturday for a $7M weekend and new $25.7M cume.
A big surprise at the box office this weekend was the 4th place opening of Provident/Samuel Goldwyn’s Fireproof, the small budget and limited release pic about a firefighter who recommits to his marriage and his faith. The movie is the latest from Sherwood Pictures, a nonprofit ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, that previously put out the popular Facing the Giants and the lesser-known Flywheel. Samuel Goldwyn Films is the theatrical distributor, while Provident Films handled Fireproof‘s outreach and marketing to Christian audiences. It debuted to a $2.3M Friday and $2.6M Saturday for a $6.5M gross weekend though released into only 839 dates and costing just $500K. The reason why is that the pic used grassroots methods to directly reach evangelical churches and target Christian audiences to go see the PG film starring the grown-up TV child star of Growing Pains, Kirk Cameron. (The ultra-religious actor claims he donated his pay to a camp for seriously ill kids he runs with his wife.) It had the year’s highest grossing opening weekend return of any film (except 3-D Hannah Montana) released on 1,000 screens or less. Faithbased “Action Squads” bought up blocks of tickets. “Just between you and me, keep your eye on the Fireproof per screen averages this weekend,” a source at Grace Hill Media, which markets to the religious community but wasn’t involved with this movie, tipped me. “On Sunday, I think there will be some distribution execs around town who will be asking ‘What the hell is Fireproof?’ ” That’s exactly what the studios did. But what’s interesting about the pic’s success is that not all Christian-themed movies do well: in fact, most don’t, especially those made by the majors trying to cash in on Mel Gibson’s blockbuster The Passion Of The Christ. Hollywood still can’t figure out what works and what doesn’t for faith-based audiences. Today, Fireproof is still going strong with advance ticket sales, accounting for the largest share — 22% — of all sold, according to big online ticketseller Fandango.com. “Because of the sold-out screenings and strong word-of-mouth, we expect next weekend’s ticket sales for this movie will be equally healthy,” spokesman Harry Medved told me.
Burn After Reading from Focus Pictures snuck in at #5 with $1.6M Friday and a $3M Saturday for a $6.1M weekend. No. 6 Igor from Exodus Film Group/MGM experienced a minimal 2nd week drop of only 30%. Three R-rated new movies also opened in limited release, including Spike Lee’s drama about black soldiers who fought in World War II, The Miracle Of St. Anne. The director’s attempt to repudiate Clint Eastwood came in No. 9 for the weekend with $965K Friday, and $1.5M Saturday, for a $3.5M weekend. Lionsgate’s The Lucky Ones about returning Iraq war vets Tim Robbins and Rachel McAdams and Michael Pena made $142K from 459 theaters this weekend. And Fox Searchlight’s dark comedy Choke with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston took in $1.3M from 434 venues. The weekend will total over $93.7M, which is +10% over last year’s.
1. Eagle Eye (DreamWorks/Paramount) NEW [3,510 theaters], wkd $29.2M
2. Nights In Rodanthe (Warner Bros) NEW [2,704], wkd $13.5M
3. Lakeview Terrace (Screen Gems/Sony) Friday [2,467], wkd $7M, cume $25.7M
4. Fireproof (Provident/Samuel Goldwyn) NEW , wkd $6.5M
5. Burn After Reading (Focus Features) [2,649], wkd $6.1M, cume $45.5M
6. Igor (Exodus/MGM) [2,341], wkd $5.5M, cume $14.3M
7 Righteous Kill (Overture) [3,011], wkd est $3.8M, cume $34.8M
8. My Best Friends Girl (Lionsgate) [2,636], wkd $3.8M, cume $14.5M
9. Miracle at St Anna (Touchstone/BV) NEW [1,185], wkd $3.5M
10. Tyler Perry’s Family That Preys (Lionsgate) [2,642], wkd est $3.1M, cume $32.8M