North American box office: ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop’ secures the weekend

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend isn’t traditionally a big weekend for moviegoing, but wow, this four-dayer was a record breaker:

1. Paul Blart: Mall Cop: $39.2 million (NEW)
2. Gran Torino: $25.6 million (2nd week in wide release; drops 13%)
3. My Bloody Valentine 3-D: $24.1 million (NEW)
4. Notorious: $23.4 million (NEW)
5. Hotel for Dogs: $22.8 million (NEW)

actual numbers, not estimates
This was not only the biggest King weekend ever but the biggest January weekend ever. Almost $40 million for Mall Cop? And the next four movies well over $20 million each? Just amazing. Perhaps we are indeed looking at a major upswing in movie attendance as the economy tanks. Maybe movies will remain the one splurge people hang onto as they tighten belts elsewhere.

I’ll be keeping an eye on that…

And the per-screen averages are interesting, too…

Just as a reminder to newcomers here, I look at per-screen averages as a way to level the playing field between the wide releases and those in arthouses, as a way to gauge relative popularity when one film is playing on 3,000 screens and another is playing on five screens. And typically, the small releases in the U.S. get the biggest per-screens each weekend, indicating that there’s lots of pent-up demand for limited releases that has only a narrow channel to move through — and on the flip side, it suggests that many of the very wide releases might do equally well overall if they were on fewer screens.

But take a look at this weekend’s biggest per-screens:

Notorious: $14,282 (1,638 venues)
The Wrestler: $14,196 (144 screens)
Revolutionary Road: $12,626 (171 screens)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop: $12,479 (3,144 venues)
Slumdog Millionaire: $12,065 (582 screens)
Che: $11,757 (25 screens)
Waltz with Bashir: $10,848 (9 screens)

(Note, too, this distinction: Wide releases may play on more than one screen at a single multiplex, whereas limited releases rarely do. So wide releases may get more actual showings in a single day.)

With two huge releases in the mix with the arthouse fodder and awards bait, it suggests that a wide and varied swath of people headed out to the movies this weekend. And that, no matter what you think of the quality of the movies themselves, is only a good thing fron a business perspective.

Milestones this weekend: Bedtime Stories and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button both passed $100 million this weekend (though Button still has a ways to go to earn back its reported $150 million budget). Valkyrie passed $75 million, which means it has now earned back its reported budget. Doubt passed $25 million… though it cost a surprising $20 million to produce (a big chunk of which probably went on Streep’s and Hoffman’s salaries). Milk passed $20 million (it also cost $20 million, but its a much bigger story than Doubt’s).

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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