Fictional mass murderer Jason Voorhees helped studios smash box-office records this weekend, as total film grosses for the four days that ended Monday reached $223 million, a 35% gain over last year's Presidents Day weekend.
The previous Presidents Day weekend record was set in 2007, when "Ghost Rider" led the box office to a four-day total of $186.5 million.
"Friday the 13th," the gory Warner Bros. remake of the 1980 film, pulled in $45.2 million over four days. Another Warner Bros. movie, "He's Just Not That Into You," brought in $23.4 million over four days.
"This Presidents Day weekend proves that there is no recession when it comes to going to the movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracking firm Media by Numbers.
A third Warner Bros. movie, "Under the Sea," a 3-D Imax exploration of the deep waters of Australia and Papua New Guinea, performed strongly as well, bringing in $857,000 for the weekend but pulling in an average of $17,490 per theater. "Friday the 13th" generated $14,560 per theater.
In third place was 20th Century Fox's "Taken," a Liam Neeson thriller about a retired CIA operative who tries to recover his kidnapped daughter. "Coraline," the 3-D fantasy film from Focus Features, came in fourth, generating $19.1 million in ticket sales.
Rounding out the top five movies was Disney's "Confessions of a Shopaholic," which garnered $17.3 million at the box office in its four-day weekend premiere.
"It's a healthy marketplace and there are good movies out there," said Bert Livingston, senior vice president and general sales manager at 20th Century Fox.
Ticket sales were helped by the calendar: Moviegoers saw the horror movie on Friday the 13th and romantic comedies on Valentine's Day. Family-friendly movies such as "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and "Coraline" also received a boost from the long weekend.
Pasadena resident Karen Lindsay, who saw "Taken" on Sunday, was motivated to go to the theater because she didn't have to work Monday.
She works as an executive assistant for IndyMac Bank, which was taken over by the federal government in July.
Since the economy started to falter, she's been cutting back on carwashes and meals out, she said, but decided a movie was worth it.
"People need an escape from reality," she said. "They need to be entertained."
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Preliminary results in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* -- Movie 4-day gross Total Weeks -- (studio) (millions) (millions) 1 Friday the 13th (Warner $45.2 $45.2 1 -- Bros.) 2 He's Just Not That Into 23.4 58.8 2 -- You (Warner Bros.) 3 Taken (20th Century Fox) 22.2 80.9 3 4 Coraline (Focus) 19.1 39.4 2 5 Confessions of a 17.3 17.3 1 -- Shopaholic (Disney) 6 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 13.9 112.7 5 -- (Sony/Columbia) 7 Pink Panther 2 10.8 24.1 2 -- (Sony/MGM) 8 The International 10.7 10.7 1 -- (Sony/Columbia) 9 Slumdog Millionaire 8.7 88.1 14 -- (Fox Searchlight) 10 Push (Summit 7.9 20.3 2 -- Entertainment) *--*
*--* 4-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $223.0 +34.5% $1.48 +22.5% *--*
*--* Source: Media by Numbers Los Angeles Times *--*