Weekend Report: 'Wolverine' Roars
With a brawny debut, X-Men Origins: Wolverine ushered in the summer movie season, though overall business was slightly lower than the same weekend last year. The weekend also saw a disappointing opening for the latest Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy and a pitiful start for a computer-animated environmentalist tract.

Sinking its claws into approximately 8,300 screens at 4,099 sites, Wolverine tore into the top spot with $85.1 million. The opening was lower than the last movie in the franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand, which made $102.8 million out of the gate, as well as X2: X-Men United, which claimed an $85.6 million start (or the equivalent of over $100 million today when ticket price inflation is taken into account), but higher than the first X-Men. Among summer kick-offs, it ranked fifth behind Spider-Man 3, Spider-Man, Iron Man and X2, and it was in the top ten of comic book adaptations. Distributor 20th Century Fox's exit polling indicated that Wolverine's audience wasn't quite as broad as The Last Stands's, registering 53 percent male and 52 percent over 25 years old.

While the movie was centered on the most popular character in the X-Men universe and the marketing promised an operatic revenge tale, it would have been unrealistic to expect Wolverine to match the last two X-Men movies (or even Iron Man, which generated $98.6 million in the same period last year). The Last Stand had a mixed reception, and an origin story at this stage in the series largely appeals to the fan base, instead of expanding it. What's more, the previous X-Men movies were already about Wolverine and his origin, rendering a prequel redundant. By that measure, Wolverine's opening was a roaring success.

Materializing with a miserly $15.4 million on around 3,800 screens at 3,175 theaters, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was positioned as counter-programming to Wolverine, but it had the least-attended start of all Matthew McConaughey romantic comedies: the previous four, Fool's Gold, Failure to Launch, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Wedding Planner, averaged over $23 million adjusted for ticket price inflation.

Shoehorning Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol into a romantic comedy template, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was McConaughey's first supernatural romantic comedy, and that type of picture often struggles: for instance, Reese Witherspoon stumbled with Just Like Heaven (also directed by Ghosts' Mark Waters). At first glance, Ghosts' title may have confused many into thinking the past girlfriends were dead, and the actual premise of a cad convinced to change his womanizing ways after being visited by ghosts wasn't given proper play. The ads deferred to some random wedding humor instead. The shoddiness of the campaign was exemplified by the poster. It displayed the typical McConaughey lean on his female co-star (Jennifer Garner, who isn't much of draw), but it failed to convey the movie's premise visually and had an awkwardly artificial look.

Despite trying to bait audiences with 3D presentations, Battle for Terra crashed and burned in its debut at 1,160 sites, grossing a mere $1.1 million. Only Delgo and The Ten Commandments (2007) had worse nationwide starts among computer-animated features. Science fiction drama is usually a tough sell in animation, but Battle for Terra was simultaneously generic and preachy in its advertising, presenting humans as the bad guys and a blur of space action. On the other hand, the other 3D computer-animated feature, Monsters Vs. Aliens, had the strongest hold among nationwide releases. Down 32 percent, the sci-fi comedy drew $5.8 million in its sixth weekend, and its total rose to $182.4 million.

Last weekend's top-grossing picture, Obsessed, took an expected hit in its second weekend, receding 58 percent to $12.1 million. The Fatal Attraction redux has ensnared a potent $46.9 million in ten days. 17 Again fell 45 percent to $6.4 million, and, with $48.5 million in 17 days, it's a smidgen behind the last major body switch comedy 13 Going on 30 when adjusted for ticket price inflation.

The three pictures that debuted below Obsessed last weekend, The Soloist, Fighting and Earth (2009), slipped in their second weekends. Soloist had one of the smaller drops of the weekend, but its 42 percent slide to $5.7 million was nothing to write home about and it's only made $18.2 million in ten days. Earth took an alarming hit, evaporating 51 percent to $4.3 million, but its $22 million tally in 12 days is excellent by documentary standards. Fighting retreated 64 percent to $4 million, which was a more severe setback than Never Back Down had, and its total stands at a modest $17.3 million in ten days.

Last Weekend

Moviegoers Fixate on 'Obsessed'

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2008 - 'Iron Man' Blasts Off

• 2007 - 'Spider-Man 3' Soars Into the Record Books

• 2006 - 'Mission: Impossible III' Doesn't Thrill

• 2005 - 'Kingdom' of Limbo, 'House' of Lax

• 2004 - 'Van Helsing' Stakes Out Solid Summer Start

• 2003 - 'X2' Evolves Past Predecessor in Stellar Summer Start

• 2002 - 'Spider-Man' Takes Box Office on Ultimate Spin

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