Boxoffice is 'Into' it in big way

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Even more moviegoers than expected were into Warner Bros.' "He's Just Not That Into You" during the weekend as the ensemble comedy topped the domestic rankings with a $27.5 million opening that underscored fervor for escapist films.

Similarly, Fox's action-laden thriller "Taken" fell a modest 18% during its sophomore session to ring up $20.3 million in second place and push its 10-day cume to $53.4 million. Focus Features' stop-motion animated feature "Coraline" also overachieved, corralling $16.3 million with a third-place debut.

But Sony's bow of Steve Martin starrer "The Pink Panther 2" was a disappointment with just $12 million in fourth place, while Summit Entertainment opened the sci-fi thriller "Push" at the high end of expectations with $10.2 million in sixth place. In another solid second-session hold, Paramount's PG-13 horror film "The Uninvited" dropped just 38% to $6.4 million in ninth place for an $18.4 cume.

Industrywide, the $154 million weekend represented an impressive 37% improvement over the comparable session last year, according to Nielsen. Year to date, the boxoffice is off 5% at $1.01 billion, but that's because of seasonal quirks of the boxoffice calendar.

Elsewhere among holdovers, Fox Searchlight's Indian drama "Slumdog Millionaire" maintained traction with $7.4 million in seventh place for a $77.4 million cume. And though the Weinstein Co.'s Kate Winslet starrer "The Reader" shed 140 playdates, its 862 engagements registered $2.3 million to lift its cume to $16.1 million.

In a limited bow, Weinstein genre label Third Rail Releasing unspooled the "Star Wars"-themed comedy "Fanboys" in 44 theaters and rang up $164,000, or an acceptable $3,736 per venue.

Among notable expansions, Sony Pictures Classics' French-language drama "The Class" — a nominee in Oscar's best foreign-language film category — added 21 locations for a total of 27 and grossed $192,367. That gave "Class" a classy $7,125 per site as its cume reached $587,623.

The big bow for "Into You" follows an overachieving theatrical run for last month's two-time boxoffice champ "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." The Sony comedy finished fifth during the weekend with $11 million to pump its cume to $97 million.

"Blart" got no favors from reviewers, and it stars the previously unheralded Kevin James, so industryites have attributed its success in large part to recession-wracked consumers seeking out frothy fare. It has been a particularly welcome trend as some had feared boxoffice might suffer from consumers' fiscal woes despite the industry's historic resistance to economic vagaries.

Based on the best-seller, "Into You" features an ensemble cast including Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson. Opening audiences were 80% female, with 60% of patrons under 25.

"Bottom line, it played great," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "And it's positioned well as next weekend is not only a four-day weekend (including Presidents Day) but has Valentine's Day falling on Saturday."

"Into You" was produced through Warners affiliate New Line Cinema.

Helmed by stop-motion animation auteur Henry Selick, the PG-rated "Coraline" drew family patrons and moviegoing "sophisticates," Focus distribution president Jack Foley said.

But he expressed regret that the installed base of 3-D venues was insufficient to allow the film to play entirely in 3-D auditoriums. "Coraline" was in 1,005 3-D venues and 1,294 conventional auditoriums, with 70% of its gross coming from the extra-dimensional locations.

Co-produced by MGM, "Panther 2" follows 2006's "The Pink Panther," which bowed with $20.2 million en route to registering $82.2 million domestically. "Panther 2" skewed 56% female, with 55% of patrons under 25.

"It was at the lower end of our expectations," Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer said.

Starring Dakota Fanning and Chris Evans, "Push" audiences skewed 63% male, with 59% of patrons 25 and older.

"It was slightly above our expectations and is going to get us to a respectful number," Summit distribution boss Richie Fay said.

Icon Prods. was a co-financier on "Push," whose production costs totaled an estimated $38 million.

Looking ahead to the double-holiday weekend, three wide releases are set to unspool Friday: Sony's political thriller "The International," Warners' horror remake "Friday the 13th" and Disney's romantic comedy "Confessions of a Shopaholic." (partialdiff)
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