valentines_day_poster_02SUNDAY PM: Once again, moviegoers showed that they wanted whatever Hollywood was giving them, no matter what critics were telling them about the 3 very different genre films that opened Friday through Monday. This turned into the highest grossing U.S. Presidents Weekend ever with a 4-day total estimated at $230 million, besting the previous record of $220M set last year. But this year’s overall number was aided by the inclusion of Valentine’s Day. And New Line/Warner Bros exploited all the love in the air by delivering the critically savaged but filmgoer pleasing movie Valentine’s Day for the weekend’s widest release of 3,665 theaters. Look, success like this doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out. Toby Emmerich et al came up with a formula of cramming more than a dozen stars into a film and keeping the budget below $50 million.

So these days, when most films can barely afford even 2 major stars, how did Valentine’s Day keep costs down for the cast including Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway, Patrick Dempsey, Taylor Lautner, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah and Emma Roberts? Most worked for discounted quotes and some back-end because they were able to film their parts quickly and then leave for other projects. All those names made for an impressive trailer (the one-sheet is so crowded that only thumbnails of the stars in the shape of a heart was possible). So women were easily wooed to want to see this celeb-filled crapfest, and men took the easy way out rather than think up an original way to heart the holiday. (“Men are less negative than usual,” one rival studio exec snarked.) The lame pic received only 13% positive reviews from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but the studio has already planned its sort-of sequel. Here’s why: V-Day made $16.5M Friday, $18.4M Saturday and a whopping $22M Sunday for what Warner Bros is predicting to me will be a $65M four-day weekend. Also feeling the love was Relativity/Sony Pictures’ sappy military-themed love story Dear John which did as much business Sunday as it did on Saturday.

wolfmanposter2By contrast, The Wolfman cost at least $150 million even if Universal claims tax credits brought that figure down to $110M. With only 30% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s another in a long list of costly underperfomers from fired Uni Pictures topper Marc Shmuger. The buzz was consistent from early on that this creature feature starring Oscar-winner Benecio Del Toro  was a disappointing mess. Wolfman was supposed to earn $40+M for the four-day holiday, and now will be lucky to total $35M this weekend. for 3rd place. Then again, Jurrassic Park 3‘s director Joe Johnston was at the helm. ‘Nuff said. Pic opened day and date in 37 territories this weekend.

percyjackson20th Century Fox’s newcomer Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief only looks like a total rip-off of Harry Potter. But instead of an offspring of wizards, this is the half-human son of the Greek god Poseidon.  And instead of J.K. Rowling and her novels, this is Rick Riordan and the bedtime stories he told his son. (Lightning Thief was written in 1994, before Philosopher’s Stone was published, although it wasn’t published until 11 years later.) The marketplace was in dire need of new PG kiddie content, and this pic overperformed by doing twice what was expected. Its continuing matinee bounces especially on Presidents Day should keep it in 2nd place.

1. Valentines Day (Warner Bros) NEW [3,665 Theaters]
Fri $14.7M, Sat $18.4M, Sun $22M, 3-Day Wkd $52.4M, 4-Day Hol $65M

2. Percy Jackson & The Olympians(Fox) NEW [3,356 Theaters]
Fri $9.7M, Sat $11.5M, Sun $9.5M, 3-Day Wkd $31.1M, 4-Day Hol $40M

3. The Wolfman (Universal) NEW [3,222 Theaters]
Fri $9.8M, Sat $10.9, Sun $10M, 3-Day Wkd $30.6M, 4-Day Hol $34.8M

4. Avatar (Fox) Week 9 [2,685 Theaters]
Fri $4.5M, Sat $9.2M, Sun $9M, 3-Day Wkd $30.0M, 4-Day Hol $26M, Cume $659.6M

5. Dear John (Relativity/Sony) Week 2 [2,975 Theaters]
Fri $4.1M, Sat $5.4M, Sun $5.8M, 3-Day Wkd $15.3M, 4-Day Hol $18M, Cume $53.1M

6. Tooth Fairy (Fox) Week 4 [2,748 Theaters]
Fri $1.2M, Sat $2.3M, 3-Day Wkd $5.9M, 4-Day Hol $7.7M, Cume $41.5M

7. From Paris With Love (Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,722]
Fri $1.1M, Sat $2.0M, 3-Day Wkd $5.0M, 4-Day Hol $4.9M, Cume $35.9M

8. Edge of Darkness (Warner Bros) Week 3 [2,615]
Fri $1.0M, Sat $1.8M, 3-Day Wkd $4.6M, 4-Day Hol $5.2M, Cume $35.9M

9. Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight) Week 9 [1,005]
Fri $864K, Sat $1.6M, 3-Day Wkd $3.9M, 4-Day Hol $4.7M, Cume $16.5M

10. When in Rome (Disney) Week 3 [2,125]
Fri $808K, Sat $1.2M, 3-Day Wkd $3.3M, 4-Day Hol $3.7M, Cume $25.8M

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.

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