The Box Office Recap and Upcoming Weekend Forecast: Paul Blart Continues to Amaze

What a month for Hollywood; the third weekend of January once again showed no signs of weakness at the North American box office. After a shocking opening weekend launch of $31.8 million, Paul Blart: Mall Cop looks to edge out Underworld: Rise of the Lycans for the number one spot two weekends in a row.

Overall, the top ten films grossed an estimated $117.6 million over the January 23-25 weekend. Although this total represents a 23.9 percent decline in revenue compared to last weekend, it also stands as a 7.7 percent gain over the same weekend last year, thereby maintaining 2009’s unexpectedly-large lead over 2008 at the same point.

Sony/Happy Madison’s Paul Blart nabbed the number one spot with another estimated $21.5 million this past weekend, dipping only 32.5 percent from last weekend. With a grand total of $64.8 million after ten days, the film has already become profitable thanks to its miniscule production budget of just $26 million. Look for the film to easily have enough steam to push it over the century mark, making executives at Sony quite pleased.

More importantly, the impressive total bodes well for funnyman Kevin James’s future. Though typically typecast as the sidekick to other comedians like Adam Sandler in films like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Paul Blart proves that James can headline a successful film in the same fashion. In fact, James’s new film is nearly outpacing Sandler’s big-budget flick Bedtime Stories from last month.

Yet Sony has other reasons to celebrate as well, as Lycans, the third installment in the Underworld series, earned second place with an estimated weekend take of $20.7 million. Though down from the $26.9 million opening weekend of Underworld: Evolution from 2006, Lycans’ first three days are a moderate success story for Sony, considering that Kate Beckinsale is nowhere to be seen in the newest installment. Look for a questionable continuation of the franchise in the near future, pending Lycans’ legs.

In other news, Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino once again held well, dipping only 27.2 percent to $16 million for third place in its third weekend of wide release. With $97.6 million so far, look for Torino to easily become Eastwood’s most popular film ever with a final domestic total of about $140 million.

Paramount’s Hotel for Dogs also held up well, dropping just 27.3 perecent to $12.4 million for fourth place in its second weekend of release. Serving as even further proof (along with last month’s Marley & Me) that Americans simply love dog movies, look for more canine-themed comedies throughout 2009 celebrating man’s best friend.

Fifth went to Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire, who finally expanded the film into moderately wide release at about 1,411 theaters across the country. Millionaire saw its weekend take jump 80.4 percent to an estimated $10.6 million. With ten Oscar nominations in its pocket, look for the film to maintain its strong legs throughout the awards season.

Rounding out the top ten were My Bloody Valentine 3-D with a decent drop (for the horror genre) of 52.7 percent for $10 million in its second weekend of release, Inkheart with a sub-par opening of $7.7 million, Bride Wars with a good drop of 39.9 percent for $7 million in its third weekend, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with a 7.6 percent spike in sales for $6 million after five weekends, and Notorious with an absolutely disastrous second weekend drop of 72.2 percent for $5.7 million.

Next weekend sees three more films opening nationwide, including New in Town in 1,900 theaters, The Uninvited in 2,000, and Liam Neeson’s new thriller Taken in about 3,000.

The upcoming weekend forecast predicts that with an exciting trailer, a larger theater count and an excellent marketing campaign, Taken should finally snatch the crown away from Paul Blart with a weekend take of $24 million. Following the success of The Unborn, The Uninvited should be close behind despite a smaller theater count with $19 million. New in Town, on the other hand, should miss expectations with around $9 million.