News

'Cloverfield' Clobbers MLK Record

by Brandon Gray
A scene from Cloverfield
January 21, 2008

After months of hype, Cloverfield lumbered to the top of the weekend box office, raking in an estimated $46 million over the four-day Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. 27 Dresses opened strongly in second place, while The Bucket List had a healthy hold, contributing to one of the busiest MLK frames on record.

On approximately 4,300 screens at 3,411 locations, Cloverfield's estimated $40 million Friday to Sunday was the highest grossing January opening weekend ever, soaring past an eleven-year-old benchmark set by Star Wars (Special Edition). However, Star Wars' $35 million would equal over $53 million adjusted for ticket price inflation, making it the real champion. Cloverfield also logged the biggest-grossing MLK weekend, toppling Titanic. However, like Star Wars, Titanic retains the record when it comes to attendance.

The audience for the monster horror Cloverfield, which distributor Paramount Pictures claims cost $25 million to make, skewed male (60 percent) and young (55 percent under 25 years old), according to the studio's exit polling. The marketing campaign piqued interest by employing the common tactics of shrouding the creature in mystery, to look like Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project, and of using a decimated national monument as the centerpiece, the oft-used Statue of Liberty. Pitched as a rare event picture in the usually desolate January, it wasn't a tough sell: movies featuring mass destruction almost invariably leave sizable imprints upon their debuts.

Successfully counter-programming Cloverfield, 27 Dresses attracted an estimated $27.3 million four-day start on around 3,500 screens at 3,057 theaters. Distributor 20th Century Fox pumped up the $30 million romantic comedy with two sets of national sneak previews and its polling indicated that the audience was 75 percent female and evenly split between people over and under 25 years old. The ads focused more on the charm of lead actors Katherine Heigl and James Marsden, how the movie was from the writer of The Devil Wears Prada and especially how it was an unabashed romantic comedy than on the titular gimmick of a woman having been a bridesmaid 27 times. After all, the picture was the first major traditional romantic comedy since Music and Lyrics. It is a neglected sub-genre that routinely delivers high attendance.

Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses
Also opening, caper comedy Mad Money, the inaugural release of Starz television network's Overture Films, grabbed a mediocre estimated $9.2 million in four-days at 2,470 locations. Cassandra's Dream, the latest picture from Woody Allen, flopped with an estimated $450,000 at 107 sites.

The Bucket List was still kicking in its second nationwide weekend, pulling in an estimated $16.1 million four-day for a $43.7 million total, while Juno also held well with an estimated $12 million for a $87.1 million tally. Christmas hits National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Alvin and the Chipmunks marched closer to the $200 million mark, holding better this weekend than the holiday season's highest grosser I Am Legend.

RELATED ARTICLES
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• 1/23/06 - 'Underworld' Lords Over 'New World' (Same Weekend, 2006)
• 1/24/05 - 'Are We There Yet?' Rolls in at No. 1 (Same Weekend, 2005)

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