North American box office: audiences love ‘Valentine’s Day’

And the monster fantasies have astonishing launches, too:

1. Valentine’s Day: $63.1 million (NEW)
2. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: $38.7 million (NEW)
3. The Wolfman: $35.6 million (NEW)
4. Avatar: $28.8 million
5. Dear John: $18.2 million (2nd week; drops 40%)

actual numbers, not estimates, for the 4-day weekend
Last week, it was Dear John making a shitload of dough — this weekend, it was Valentine’s Day. Ugh. I really, really hope that stereotype about women who blackmail their men into attending these movies with them is just a stereotype, because no one who doesn’t absolutely love these kinds of movies should be forced to sit through them. They’re simply torture.

And it wasn’t just Valentine’s Day breaking records (top Presidents’ Day weekend ever; second best rom-com debut ever, after Sex and the City). Percy Jackson and Wolfman also had, pun intended, monster debuts. As Box Office Mojo notes, “the only fantasies to have greater starts [than Percy] all had Potter, Rings or Narnia in their names,” and Wolfman is the biggest debut ever for a “pure werewolf” movie (that is, no accompanying vampires or other supernatural beings).

Overall, this was the moneymakingest Presidents’ Day weekend ever, up more than 10 percent over the same weekend last year (thanks in part, too, to Avatar, which was up 26 percent for the four-day weekend, and up 3 percent for the three-day weekend, over the previous weekend). Assuming that most of those who took in one of the top movies this weekend were generally satisfied with what they saw — which isn’t, of course, a given, but let’s assume it anyway — then that’s a good thing. I wish the movies were better, and I think they could be better and still be as crowd-pleasing, but it’s clear that the escapism that Hollywood is providing is working to distract and entertain a lot of people who probably need an escape. I may complain loudly about the movies themselves, but I don’t begrudge audiences their escape… if they’re actually getting that.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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