Box Office Recap: Friday the 13th Slays the Competition

Since the beginning of 2009, every single weekend has improved in domestic box office sales from one year ago. Hollywood hasn’t seen such a remarkable starting performance since, well, ever. The four-day weekend of February 13-16 was no exception, as the top ten films amounted to an estimated $179 million – a nearly 34 percent gain over the top ten films from the 2008 President’s Day long weekend. More importantly, the weekend haul stands as the largest four-day haul in February history, as well as the 20th-largest four-day weekend of all time.

Yet how can we explain such fortune for Hollywood? Clearly it’s not the quality of films, as the critically-panned Friday the 13th reboot dominated this past weekend with an estimated four-day haul of $45.2 million. Due to the franchise’s built-in fan base, look for Friday to collapse in its second weekend with a final domestic tally of $95 million. Nevertheless, with a budget of only $19 million, the film has already earned a profit for Warner Bros. after its first weekend – a truly astonishing feat.

The unexpected health of the industry can instead be attributed to two different things. For one, the state of the American economy has clearly played a role, as more and more American consumers have turned back to the movie theater for a cheaper thrill than other various activities (such as Broadway theater, which has seen its sales drop sharply this year).

Additionally, the market’s newfound ability to successfully expand its product also plays a role, as 2009 weekends are now more crowded with Hollywood fanfare than ever before. Besides this weekend’s Friday re-installment, for example, both the Buena Vista romantic comedy Confessions of a Shopaholic and the Sony thriller The International opened wide, although to less impressive numbers. The former debuted in fifth place with an estimated $17.3 million while the latter opened in eighth with $10.7 million.

Helping to rebound from those lackluster debuts were fantastic holds by the rest of the top ten. In second was last weekend’s champ He’s Just Not That Into You, which dropped just 15.9 percent for an estimated $23.4 second weekend take. Third went to Fox’s Taken, which shockingly improved its weekend haul by 8 percent for an estimated $22.2 million. Fourth went to Coraline, which also saw its sales jump 13.4 percent for an estimated $19.1 million.

Rounding out the top ten were Paul Blart: Mall Cop with $13.4 million for sixth place, The Pink Panther 2 with $13.9 million for seventh, Slumdog Millionaire with $8.7 million for ninth and Push with $7.9 million for tenth.

Next weekend sees only two openers going wide, potentially making it the first weekend of 2009 to perform below year-ago levels. Debuting in about 1,800 theaters is the new comedy Fired Up! while the next Madea-installment Madea Goes to Jail opens in a modest 2,400 theaters.

Happy filmgoing!