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Salt is Strong, but Inception Holds Stronger: Weekend Box Office

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It was another 'everybody wins!' weekend at the box office, as holdovers held well and openers opened to reasonable expectation-levels. Inception was again number one, with $42.7 million in its second weekend. That's a borderline-shocking drop of just 32%, which is almost unheard of in this day and age of mega-openers. At $142.8 million at the end of day ten, the film is far exceeding the ten-day totals of other huge-opening original films (Bruce Almighty, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Signs). Only Avatar ($212 million) and Hancock ($167 million) had more at the end of their second weekends, and Hancock had a Wednesday holiday opening (its actual ten day total was just ahead of Inception, with $143.2 million).

Obviously this film is playing to the masses and becoming the sort of film that everyone has to see in order to participate in the discussion. Heck, my brother and his wife saw it last night, and they immediately called me to make sure they 'got it' (they did). The film had the 38th-biggest ten day total. The film's second weekend was 31st on the all-time list, 11th for a non-sequel, 7th for a live-action non-sequel, and the second-biggest second weekend for a live-action original not based on any known property (Avatar pulled in $75 million in its second weekend). Barring a complete collapse for reasons unknown, Chris Nolan's picture is looking at $250 million at this point. No one should be expecting Dark Knight grosses here, but I think this thing could get a lot closer to $300 million that any of us were reasonably expecting.

Opening in second place was the Angelina Jolie vehicle Salt. With $36 million, the film marked the fourth-largest live-action opening weekend in Jolie's career, behind Wanted ($50 million), Mr. and Mrs. Smith ($50 million), and Tomb Raider ($47 million). Some might crow about the disparity between number three and number four on the list, but Salt didn't have much to sell besides Angelina Jolie kicking ass and jumping off trucks. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had the tabloid-frenzy surrounding it, Tomb Raider was based on a popular video game, and Wanted had that whole 'curve the bullet' bit to sell in the ads. Salt was more of a throwback to the mid-90s star vehicles that director Phillip Noyce is known for (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Saint, and The Bone Collector). Point being, from a modern marketing perspective, all the picture had was Angelina Jolie, so she gets credit for every dollar earned this weekend. The picture had a 2.88x weekend multiplier, meaning that it played all weekend to a wide audience (the demos were 53% female and 59% over 25). Point being, Angelina Jolie is one of the few truly bankable leading ladies left in this industry, and she's certainly one of the last action stars standing. Although Sony spent $110 million on this old-fashioned thriller, Salt will likely be a solid money maker in the long run (it's the kind of perfectly 'okay' B-movie that will run forever on TNT, USA, and FX).

This article continues, with more box office info on limited release films, general-audience holdovers, and next weekend's releases, at Mendelson's Memos.