Justin Bieber came on strong on Friday, but didn't have the stamina to take the weekend from defending champ Adam Sandler. Nipping on both Bieber and Sandler's heels were some hefty garden gnomes.
Courting his core audience and the date crowd and perhaps alienating both to a certain degree, Just Go With It was below par for an Adam Sandler vehicle, but nonetheless marked his 11th No. 1 movie. It drew $30.5 million on around 4,900 screens at 3,548 locations, and it should dominate Valentine's Monday and the rest of the weekdays. Sandler's last romantic comedy, 50 First Dates, notched $39.9 million in its Feb. 2004 opening weekend, or the equivalent of over $51 million adjusted for ticket price inflation (though it was bolstered by Presidents Day). Attendance was also down from Sandler's prior February romantic comedy The Wedding Singer. For co-star Jennifer Aniston, Just Go With It's start was slightly better than her last February release, He's Just Not That Into You. Distributor Sony Pictures' exit polling indicated that 58 percent of Just Go With It's audience was female, and 60 percent was aged 25 years and older.
Justin Bieber's rabid fan base translated to a big start for the 16-year-old's biography/3D concert movie, which ranked first on Friday but third on Saturday and Sunday for an overall second place weekend finish. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never packed $29.5 million on approximately 4,200 screens at 3,105 locations, making over twice what the Jonas Brothers' 3D concert movie pulled in its debut. Bieber also came in a bit under Hannah Montana's 3D concert ($31.1 million at only 683 locations) and grossed more than Michael Jackson's This Is It's first weekend ($23.2 million after opening on a Wednesday). Bieber's run included 2,516 3D venues, and they accounted for 84 percent of business.
Taking its title from Bieber's song from The Karate Kid remake, Never Say Never's marketing emphasized the purportedly inspirational true story of Bieber's success over the 3D concert angle. Distributor Paramount Pictures' research showed that 84 percent of Bieber's audience was female, and 67 percent was under 25 years old. Females graded the movie an "A+" in CinemaScore's moviegoer polling.
The first family movie since Christmas, Gnomeo and Juliet, landed with a relatively strong $25.4 million on close to 3,900 screens at 2,994 locations, surpassing Coraline's $16.8 million as the biggest animated opening ever for the month of February (and January). Not only that, the garden gnome comedy had the top-grossing start on record for a minor animated movie (i.e., one with little status, expectations and/or built-in audience), exceeding the similarly-themed Barnyard: The Original Party Animals. Gnomeo also loomed over Yogi Bear's $16.4 million launch, and its release included 1,809 3D locations that accounted for 58 percent of the gross. Walt Disney Pictures (which distributed via its Touchstone Pictures branding) reported that Gnomeo's audience was 59 percent female and that the top age groups were ages 2-11 years old (36 percent) and ages 26-49 (36 percent).
The fourth new nationwide release, The Eagle, marched into fourth with a meager $8.7 million at 2,296 single-screen locations. While that was much better than The Last Legion and Pathfinder among comparable titles, it was less than Season of the Witch's $10.6 million earlier this year. Eagle's marketing consisted of grungy action, and its television ads didn't take time to explain the title. According to distributor Focus Features, Eagle's demographic breakdown was 64 percent male and 62 percent under 35 years old.
It was business as usual for the holdovers. The King's Speech saw the smallest decline by far, easing six percent to $7.2 million and lifting its sum to $93.7 million in 80 days. No Strings Attached held well again, off 27 percent to $5.8 million for a $60 million total in 24 days, as did True Grit, which was down 18 percent to $3.8 million for a $160.4 million bounty in 54 days.
In its second weekend, The Roommate tumbled 46 percent, bagging $8.1 million for a $25.8 million ten-day haul, and its drop wasn't terrible, considering comparable past titles have fallen over 50 percent more often than not. Fellow second weekender, Sanctum, collected $5.7 million, off 40 percent for a dank $18 million tally in ten days. Again, 84 percent of its business came from 3D showings.
Thanks to Just Go With It, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Gnomeo and Juliet, 2011 had its first competitive weekend, proving yet again how product-driven the industry is. Overall business was still down 27 percent from the same weekend last year, which was buoyed by Presidents Day and boasted the triple play of Valentine's Day, The Wolfman and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Attendance though, was on par with the last Feb. 11-13 non-holiday weekend, back in 2005 when Hitch led.