While Dear John broke up Avatar's box office reign at No. 1, both pictures performed extremely well over Super Bowl weekend. Dear John drew $30.5 million, ranking as the second highest-grossing Super Bowl opening gross ever behind the Hannah Montana concert, while Avatar raked in another $22.9 million.
Playing on approximately 3,500 screens at 2,969 sites, Dear John's opening was way above the norm for a romantic drama, and it came close to doubling the estimated initial attendance of previous Nicholas Sparks adaptations The Notebook and A Walk to Remember. The Notebook went on to build a big audience, and Dear John's marketing capitalized on the connection. With the exception of Taken last year, the movies that open well on Super Bowl weekend tend to appeal to females, such as romances (She's All That) and horror movies (When a Stranger Calls). Tellingly, distributor Sony Pictures reported that Dear John's audience breakdown was 84 percent female and 64 percent under 21 years old. Dear John was the first romantic drama event since The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which carried Dear John's lush trailer, featured rising and relatable leads Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!) and Channing Tatum (Step Up) and was well timed with the Valentine's Day holiday.
Though the headlines reverberating throughout the media are that Dear John has defeated Avatar, the truth is this isn't like the New Orleans Saints beating the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl. This was Avatar's eighth weekend and Dear John's first, after all, and in no way a sign in and of itself that Avatar is waning. It's far more common for a picture to be a one weekend wonder than to start big and see minimal drop-offs weekend after weekend. Avatar's 27 percent decline was its steepest yet, but small nonetheless (even if the impact of Super Bowl Sunday isn't considered), and its total stands at a whopping $629.3 million in 52 days. A smidgen behind Titanic's $23 million, Avatar had the second highest-grossing eighth weekend gross ever, though Titanic's attendance was far greater at that point.
At the foreign box office, Avatar raked in $79.3 million, down 17 percent from last weekend, and its total grew to $1.58 billion, pushing its worldwide haul past $2.2 billion. Italy was Avatar's top-grossing market over the weekend with $8.5 million ($69.6 million total), followed by Germany with $8.3 million ($117.7 million total) and China with $7.8 million. China surpassed France as Avatar's top-grossing market with $144.6 million. Avatar also set industry gross highs (in local currency) in the United Kingdom, Brazil and Taiwan, and it crossed the $100 million mark in Japan.
Below Dear John and Avatar on the domestic front, the grosses were relatively modest. Every picture took the typical Super Bowl hit on Sunday, but, even taking that into account, new release From Paris with Love was still below par and movies in their second weekends still fell precipitously. All told, weekend business was off 26 percent from the same timeframe last year, which was led by He's Just Not That Into You, Taken and Coraline.
From Paris with Love wooed $8.2 million on around 3,000 screens at 2,722 sites, which was less than any Transporter movie as well as The International from last February. Lead actor John Travolta's action movies generally haven't excelled at the box office, and the marketing relied on potential audiences being excited to see him in an outrageously bald-and-goateed action role over anything else. The campaign also pushed the fact that From Paris from Love was from the director of Taken (Pierre Morel), but that picture was a serious action movie with a relatable theme. From Paris with Love came off as random zaniness, embodied by one ad that declared the movie as Mr. Travolta's best since Pulp Fiction followed by his character cheekily stating his fondness for the "Royale with Cheese" in reference to Pulp.
Edge of Darkness tipped over into the abyss in its second weekend. The revenge drama was down 60 percent to $6.9 million, suffering a far greater drop than comparable titles like Law Abiding Citizen, Gran Torino, Taken, Righteous Kill and more and lifting its total to $28.9 million in ten days. When in Rome crumbled 55 percent to $5.5 million, which was also a steeper-than-normal dip, and has made $20.9 million in ten days.
With the Academy Awards' expansion to ten Best Picture nominees came some popular selections for a change, but, as usual, there was little effect on the box office. Avatar was already such a phenomenon that it would be unfazed by Oscar, but no other nominee saw a box office bump without a significant theater expansion. The next highest-ranking Best Picture contender after Avatar was audience favorite The Blind Side in 11th place, down 17 percent to $2.5 million ($241.5 million total in 80 days), and Up in the Air was off as well. An Education entered nationwide release for the first time, but made just $763,234 at 761 sites, while Precious re-entered nationwide release and mustered just $474,156 at 669 sites. Crazy Heart, featuring Best Actor nominee Jeff Bridges, grossed $3.6 million in its nationwide launch at 819 sites, which was less potent than The Wrestler last year.
In milestone news, Sherlock Holmes joined the $200 million club on Saturday, its 44th day of release.