‘Paul Blart’ Does Part in Record MLK Weekend
Led by an exceptional start for Paul Blart: Mall Cop and solid ones for My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Notorious and Hotel for Dogs, the weekend as a whole was not only a new Martin Luther King, Jr. high but the biggest on record for the month of January. Tallying over $231 million from Friday to Monday, business was up nearly 24 percent from the same weekend last year, demonstrating how the market can expand to accommodate quite a few appealing, demographically-compatible pictures.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop patrolled approximately 3,400 screens at 3,144 theaters and captured $39.2 million in four days, nearly doubling the initial attendance of the similar National Security, which also opened on MLK weekend back in 2003. It ranked as the second highest-grossing MLK opening ever behind Cloverfield, which debuted to $46.1 million last year. According to distributor Sony Pictures' exit polling, 56 percent of Paul Blart's audience was under 25 years old and evenly split between genders.

The bumbling or unlikely action hero has been popular fodder in recent movies such as Get Smart and The Pink Panther, and Paul Blart, sporting a sad sack Die Hard in a mall storyline, stood tall as the first broad comedy of the year. It also posted the biggest debut among the "name: occupation" comedies, beating Ace Venture: Pet Detective and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo among others. Paul Blart marks the first movie vehicle for actor Kevin James, segueing from television (long-running situational comedy King of Queens) and lower-billed stints in Hitch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

Shy of a strong second nationwide weekend for Gran Torino, My Bloody Valentine 3-D drew $24.1 million on around 2,800 screens at 2,534 theaters in its four-day start (including 1,033 digital 3D presentations, the format's widest launch yet). The slasher remake was close to Prom Night and When a Stranger Calls remakes, but its marketing's main selling point was its 3D presentation, replete with shots of an audience watching fire and knives fly out of the screen at them. 3D, with its higher ticket prices, accounted for a whopping estimated 80 percent of the picture's opening gross, the format's largest share yet.

Notorious made nearly as much as My Bloody Valentine from fewer theaters. The biographical drama about the late gangster rapper Notorious B.I.G. grabbed $23.4 million in four days on close to 2,000 screens at 1,638 sites. Attendance was about a third of 8 Mile's debut but well above average among rap-oriented movies.

In the wake of dog comedy hits Marley and Me and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Hotel for Dogs checked in with comparable attendance to The Shaggy Dog. The family comedy fetched $22.9 million in four days on around 3,400 screens at 3,271 locations, and, among recent MLK family movies, it fared better than Racing Stripes and Hoodwinked but worse than Snow Dogs and Kangaroo Jack.

Two pictures that started in limited release over the holidays, Defiance and Last Chance Harvey, expanded nationwide with modest results. World War II drama Defiance, which mined similar Nazi-fighting territory as the still fresh Valkyrie, recruited $10.5 million in four days on approximately 1,900 screens at 1,789 sites. That was on par with Hart's War among past movies. Last Chance Harvey, a romance featuring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, attracted $5 million at 1,054 theaters in four days.

Among holdovers, Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire were the most impressive, while the rest had typical drop-offs for the most part. Gran Torino dipped 13 percent to $25.6 million, holding slightly better than The Bucket List last year and bringing its total to $76.6 million. Slumdog Millionaire gained momentum, growing 55 percent comparing three-day weekends. The heavily hyped drama made $7 million at 582 sites over the four-day weekend and its total grew to $43.9 million.

Last Weekend:

'Gran Torino' Muscles In

Holdovers Crumble Under 'Gran Torino'

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2008 - 'Cloverfield' Clobbers MLK Record

• 2007 - 'Stomp' Steps Up

• 2006 - 'Glory Road' Glides Past 'Hoodwinked' in MLK Photo Finish

• 2005 - 'Coach Carter' Delivers MLK Win

Related Chart

Weekend Box Office Results