Valentine's Day led to the biggest Presidents' Day weekend, not to mention the highest-grossing February weekend ever. Overall Friday-to-Monday business came in at close to $240 million, up nine percent from the same holiday timeframe last year, which was the previous Presidents' benchmark. Also contributing to the bustling weekend were sizable samplings for Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and The Wolfman and the continued strength of Avatar.
Playing on approximately 5,100 screens at 3,665 sites, Valentine's Day burst onto to the scene with a bountiful $63.1 million in four days, shooting past Ghost Rider's $52 million as the top Presidents' Day weekend debut ever. For the proper three-day weekend period, Valentine's posted $56.3 million, ranking as the second highest-grossing opening for a romantic comedy behind Sex and the City and doubling the debut of He's Just Not That Into You last February. Of course, Sunday, Valentine's Day, was the picture's biggest day, accounting for $23.4 million of the weekend.
Valentine's Day was announced after the release of He's Just Not That Into You and came off as a super-sized version of that movie as well as Love Actually with its parade of famous actors. While ensemble pictures tend not to equal the sum of their parts at the box office, as was the case with He's Just Not That Into You and Love Actually, Valentine's was supercharged by its titular holiday gimmick and a marketing campaign that cheerily positioned it as the ultimate romantic comedy event. Most of the the players crammed onto the movie's heart-shaped poster are not known to be significant box office draws. Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher and Jamie Foxx are arguably the only ones that register with more than a blip, and Ms. Roberts' Pretty Woman connection may have been the biggest boost. Ads claimed the movie has "everyone you ever wanted in a romantic comedy," but Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant and other names bigger than the actual castmembers were notably absent. Predictably, Valentine's audience was 68 percent female, according to distributor Warner Bros., with an even split between those over and under 30 years old.
Topping the chart on Presidents' Day but coming in second for the weekend overall, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief struck with a potent $38.7 million on around 4,200 screens at 3,356 sites, which was much higher than The Spiderwick Chronicles and Bridge to Terabithia, two other book-based fantasies that also had Presidents' Day weekend debuts in the past. In fact, the only fantasies to have greater starts all had Potter, Rings or Narnia in their names. In its action-packed advertising, Percy came off as a Greek mythology spin on Harry Potter, which launched Hollywood's fantasy bandwagon that's resulted mostly in disappointments, and this was fomented by pumping up the fact that Percy director Chris Columbus also guided the first two Potter movies. Distributor 20th Century Fox's research indicated that only 50 percent of Percy's audience were parents and their children and that there was an even split between genders.
Business for The Wolfman was raging as well. The remake of the 1941 horror movie of the same name ripped $35.6 million out of around 4,500 screens at 3,222 sites in four days. Its $31.5 million Friday-to-Sunday haul was the second highest-grossing werewolf opening on record behind The Twilight Saga: New Moon. New Moon and the Underworld series starred vampires, and werewolves have lacked their allure: Wolfman would rank first among pure werewolf movies (only Wolf from 1994 had higher estimated initial attendance). Instead of the modern setting of recent werewolf disappointments, Wolfman was presented as a lush, over-the-top period horror, a sub-genre that includes Bram Stoker's Dracula and Sleepy Hollow and that has a high opening attendance average. Distributor Universal Pictures' exit polling showed that Wolfman's audience was 56 percent male and 51 percent 30 years and older.
Avatar may have ranked fourth, but it was still a top attraction. The blockbuster was up three percent over last weekend and logged the second highest-grossing ninth weekend of all time (behind Titanic). For the four-day session, it generated $28.8 million and its total climbed to $666.4 million in 60 days.
Last weekend's top draw, Dear John, dropped 47 percent Friday-to-Sunday despite the holiday. Nonetheless, the romantic drama pulled in $18.2 million for the four-day weekend, bringing its total to $56.1 million in 11 days and surpassing the final tally of fellow Nicholas Sparks adaptation A Walk to Remember.
At the foreign box office, Avatar maintained its domination. Down 25 percent, it claimed $59.8 million, propelling its total to $1.69 billion. The three big domestic openers also had significant foreign launches. Valentine's Day wooed $35 million in 57 markets, Percy Jackson collected $27.9 million in 39 markets, and The Wolfman grabbed $21.8 million in 37 markets.