"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" is a lightweight film about a hapless security guard who foils a crime ring, but like its title character, it rose above expectations and trounced other films at the box office this weekend.
Ticket sales for Sony/Columbia's "Blart" totaled about $33.8 million for the three days, knocking off last week's box-office champ, "Gran Torino," according to the box-office tracking firm Media by Numbers.
"Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood's redemptive story of a bitter Korean War veteran, brought in an estimated $22.2 million. The Warner Bros. film is in its second week of general release but had been playing in a limited run since mid-December.
Rounding out the top five were horror film "My Bloody Valentine 3-D" from Lionsgate; Fox Searchlight's "Notorious," the dramatization of the 1997 homicide of rapper Notorious B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace; and Paramount's "Hotel for Dogs," a heart-warmer about a pair of adolescents who turn an abandoned hotel into a shelter for stray dogs.
"Blart" beat art because in a field of mature-themed competitors, it was "an everyone choice, a movie the whole family could enjoy," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The paucity of new comedy films left a "wide-open landscape" in which "Blart" could "really capitalize on the demand for pure, escapist fun," said Media by Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian. "Blart" was the only choice for those seeking a film with a protagonist they could laugh at, not with.
The audience was even bigger than expected. Bruer said the studio had expected "Blart" to draw about $25 million over the four days, including today's Martin Luther King Day. But it is on track to gross $40 million for the period, he said. "It's a terrific number; the film only cost $26 million to make."
"Notorious" also beat box-office expectations, said Chris Aronson, senior vice president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox.
Aronson said the studio expected a strong showing because of Notorious B.I.G.'s prominence, but this weekend's competition appeared especially strong.
The estimated $21.5-million three-day gross for "Notorious" showed it was more popular than expected beyond African American audiences, Aronson said. "We crossed over, which speaks volumes about his impact as a cultural icon," Aronson said.
New technology enhanced sales of "My Bloody Valentine 3-D," a remake of the 1981 horror film. About 40% of theaters showed the film in 3-D, but they brought in 79% of its gross through Saturday, said Steve Rothenberg, president of domestic distribution for Lionsgate.
Rothenberg said the studio had expected 3-D showings to generate about three times the business generated by conventional screenings of the film, but instead 3-D brought in five times the gross of the conventional theaters.
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Preliminary results in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* -- Movie 3-day gross Total Weeks -- (studio) (millions) (millions) 1 Paul Blart: Mall Cop $33.8 $33.8 1 -- (Sony/Columbia) 2 Gran Torino (Warner 22.2 73.2 6 -- Bros.) 3 My Bloody Valentine 3-D 21.9 21.9 1 -- (Lionsgate) 4 Notorious (Fox 21.5 21.5 1 -- Searchlight) 5 Hotel for Dogs 17.7 17.7 1 -- (Paramount) 6 Bride Wars (Fox) 11.8 37.6 2 7 The Unborn (Universal) 9.8 33.1 2 8 Defiance (Paramount 9.2 9.5 3 -- Vantage) 9 Marley and Me (Fox) 6.3 132.7 4 10 Slumdog Millionaire 5.9 42.7 10 -- (Fox Searchlight) *--*
*--* Industry totals *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in millions) from 2008 $197.0 +27.7% $631.9 +24.7% *--*
*--* Note: A movie may be shown on more than one screen at each venue. Source: Media by Numbers Los Angeles Times *--*