Apologies for the delay for this weekend's box office write-up. Real life got in the way.
If at first you don't succeed... After narrowly missing a return to first place last weekend, Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon easily took the top spot in its fifth frame. This is the first movie to return to number 01 since The Passion of the Christ over Easter weekend 2004 (its seventh weekend). How to Train Your Dragon joins such rare company as Forrest Gump, Jerry Maguire, and Signs. Dropping 21%, the critically-acclaimed and just-plain awesome cartoon earned another $15.3 million (the eighth-biggest fifth weekend of all-time). The picture has amassed $178 million stateside and $372 million worldwide. Domestically, it's running ahead of every single non-Shrek Deamworks cartoon outside of Kung Fu Panda. On a weekend-by-weekend scale, it's nearly doubled the fifth weekend of every other such Dreamworks film (Kung Fu Panda made $7.3 million in its fifth weekend and Monsters Vs. Aliens made $8.5 million in the same period respectively). Even Shrek and Shrek 2 could only muster $13 million on their respective fifth weekends, while Shrek the Third grossed $9 million in weekend five. Ironically, the dragon fable is showing such strong legs that Dreamworks may end up shooting itself in the foot when it steals away the 3D screens on May 21st for the likely quick-kill theatrical blitz of Shrek Forever After. Shrek 4 surely will open huge, but theaters prefer leggier hits as opposed to massively front-loaded blockbusters. Don't be surprised if Dreamworks keeps How to Train Your Dragon in at least a token number of 3D screens after the fourth Shrek picture debuts. Come what may, this is a remarkable run for a surprisingly good movie.
Second place went to The Back-Up Plan, as CBS Films' Jennifer Lopez rom-com debuted with $12.2 million. It's not a scorcher of a debut, in fact it's one of Lopez's smallest debuts as a lead in a mainstream picture. But this is Lopez's first film since Monster-In-Law back in summer 2005. Monster-In-Law opened to $23 million over the second weekend of summer 2005, which is still Jennifer Lopez's biggest debut. That picture had a stronger hook and added buzz of Jane Fonda's return to big-screen acting. $12 million is generally a decent number for an untested star (Kristen Bell's When In Rome for example), but it's a pretty soft number for someone who used to do very well in this genre. Point being, it appears that Lopez may be the sort of celebrity that attracts more attention in the gossip rags than as an actual actress. As someone who rooted for her back in her Money Train/Jack days (when she was a shockingly good actress holding up otherwise terrible films), this is a sad turn of events. Of course, it doesn't help that most of her films, pre and post stardom, just weren't very good. Aside from Out of Sight and Selena, her best films are arguably Anaconda and The Cell, which doesn't exactly bode well for her credibility (she's done some interesting indie work like Blood and Wine and Bordertown, but no one ever saw those). Still, the solution here is easy: supporting roles in interesting films, rather than playing the lead in bland pictures that depend on you to carry them.
Third place went to the resilient Date Night, which dropped just 37% in weekend three. The kinder/gentler After Hours has become the second choice for frequent film-goers and the first choice of casual adult audiences. The Steve Carell/Tina Fey vehicle has grossed $10.4 million in weekend three for a total of $63.3 million thus far, surpassing the $60 million gross of Fey's last vehicle Baby Mama, from April 2008. This one is going to stick around awhile, as there is no real adult entertainment until Ridley Scott's Robin Hood on May 14th. Fourth place went to a new picture, The Losers. The DC Comics/Vertigo adaptation opened with just $9.4 million. The film has a seemingly troubled history, shifting release dates from April to June and then back to April. The PG-13 may have been the fatal blow, as the film was sold as a sexier, more violent variation on The A-Team (at one point, it was set to open the weekend before The A-Team movie, as sort of a 'screw you' from Warner to Fox). If ever a film would have benefited from an R-rating... Anyway, the picture cost only $25 million so the damage should not be too severe.
For more box office news, including a near-record opening for a documentary and the silver lining in the implosion of Kick-Ass, plus the usual holdover news and a peak at next weekend, read the rest of this article at Mendelson's Memos.