Box Office report: Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino races to the top

Clint leads the pack by a country mile as box-office takings roll in for the weekend...

Feeling very lucky this weekend.

It’s amazing, Clint Eastwood at 78 years old has more energy than I have at 27. Well, he also has more money, talent, and awesomeness than I do too, but that goes without saying. The living legend is proving to be more living than legend these days, as his latest film is proving to be a hit with critics and consumers alike.

Gran Torino, after a month in limited release, rolled out to the world at large this weekend, and the world at large said, “Oh man, this is awesome!” Clint’s latest picture has been called a tour de force, classic Clint, and a masterpiece. You can also call it the number one movie at the box office, as Gran Torino‘s roll-out brought in an impressive 40 million dollars in its first weekend showing in over 100 theaters. It rose 888% over last week’s take.

Battling for Clint’s leftovers are two films that appeal to vastly different audiences. One was brought in the charm of Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson. The other was brought in by the outrageous Photoshopping of Odette Yustman’s backside (and possibly David Goyer’s screen writing credit for The Dark Knight). Bride Wars and The Unborn were cheek to cheek all weekend, but charm outweighs rump, at least for this week. Bride Wars settled into second place with $21.5 million, while The Unborn brought up the rear with $21.095 million, good for third place. The Unborn bumped the brides for Friday and Sunday and Bride Wars taking Saturday, or so the estimates would have us believe.

Marley and Me was top dog for three long weeks. Every dog has its day, but this dog’s day has passed. Last week’s box office topper found itself rolling over submissively for the newcomers, but it still managed to get its belly scratched to the tune of $11.35 million and fourth place at the box office.

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This box office report may set a new record for bad puns by the time I’m done with it.

Sinking to fifth place from last week’s third, Brad Pitt’s tilt at the windmills of awards season, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, brought in $9.45 million this weekend. It’s brought in about 94 million dollars, and is going to gross over $100 million easily. Given that the film is uncomfortably close to 3 hours long, that’s a seriously good total. The longer a film is, the less it can be shown in a day, so Button is doing good business per screen.

Adam Sandler is about to have another $100 million dollar movie on his hands. After the muted reception given break-even (in the US) You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Sandler needed another hit. He scores it, breaking with his usual semi-blue, mostly-brainless comedy routine for the family hit, Bedtime Stories. Sixth place this weekend is pretty good, but more impressive is the 8.5 million dollars and the overall haul of $97 million thus far. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a break from his usual routine.

Speaking of folks who needed to do something different, Tom Cruise put a lot on the line with Valkyrie, and it’s looking to be a good gamble for him and his pet studio. While the 75 million dollar picture hasn’t made its money back (it’s at $71.5 million right now), it’s holding onto box office position (seventh, $6.66 million) and shows that there’s still some dramatic talent there in Tom Cruise. Combine this with his turn in Tropic Thunder earlier this summer, and he’s done wonders for rehabbing his image after the scientology flaps he’s been involved in recently.

Meanwhile, Jim Carrey is in no need of career rehab. Yes Man falls to eighth place this week, from fifth last week, but it still brought in $6.15 million and has an outside chance at breaking $100 million domestically. It sits at $89 million at the moment, but the 100 million dollar mark is not easily broken.

Hey, speaking of Not Easily Broken, the limited release urban drama showed serious muscle at the box office. Despite bowing in only 724 theaters, this debut scored strongly, with $5.6 million. That’s really good numbers for a film that received very little marketing (though it does have the power of a best-selling author behind it).

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Tenth place this weekend falls to Will Smith, whose drama Seven Pounds has managed to make $66 million despite not much attention from either critics or moviegoers. The trailers for this one confused the life out of me, and it apparently kept Smith’s fans away, as Seven Pounds is the first Will Smith movie since 2001’s biopic Ali not to make 100 million dollars in the US. Perhaps defining the movie a bit better would have helped.

Next week’s releases are incredibly well defined. Hotel For Dogs is for the kids. Paul Blart: Mall Cop is for morons, and Notorious is for fans of rapper Notorious BIG and/or biopic fans. The one movie I’m incredibly excited about is My Bloody Valentine 3-D. Yes, I know it’s going to be horrible, but the only thing I love more than an awful horror movie is a movie that depends on a cheap gimmick for its business. Friday The 13th Part 3, look out! You’ve got competition!

US correspondent Ron Hogan has very fond memories of seeing a 3-D print of The Creature From The Black Lagoon as a youngster at the bargain theater. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness , and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

12 January 2009