Act of Valor didn’t prove star power is everything when it comes to box office weekends – a good gimmick and some snazzy marketing will do the trick every time. Its $24.4m was slightly above our own prediction last week, and, as expected, the film debuted in the #1 spot ahead of three, opening contenders. Of those, Tyler Perry’s latest was the only film to come within $10m of Act of Valor‘s numbers. The other two hardly even registered.

But the film of the hour is one about Navy SEALs portrayed by actual Navy SEALs. Audiences were led to believe the action in Act of Valor would be more lifelike, more thrilling, if the people firing the machine guns and swimming around submarines actually did that day-to-day. Whether that’s true is moot. The commercials sold that very prospect and, this weekend, moviegoers ate it up without seasoning.

Act of Valor‘s opening is the second biggest for Relativity. Their Greek fantasy epic Immortals hold onto the biggest debut for the new studio with $32.2m. That film ended its run with $83.5m domestic, another $134.1m in foreign markets. Act of Valor won’t have the longevity to crack either of those numbers. It’ll be lucky to match those of Relativity’s second highest earner, Limitless, which brought in $79.2m domestic and $82.6m foreign. Films about modern, American warfare aren’t the biggest blockbusters when it comes to foreign ticket sales. Without that star power we’ve talked about, Act of Valor has nothing in its favor to help boost its second and third weekend takes or even secure a large turnout in markets outside the US.

Good Deeds, Tyler Perry’s latest, isn’t the lowest debut the director has had. 2007’s Daddy’s Little Girls and its $11.2m opening weekend keeps hold of that title. But the numbers of Good Deeds aren’t up to snuff for Perry, who has more $20+m opening weekend films than not. Still, Perry isn’t a director who makes $100m blockbusters. Even if it doesn’t match up to his other films, Good Deeds is sure to find itself in the black sooner rather than later. You can rest assured Perry’s days of making movies are long from over. You can rest even more assured knowing plans to bring Madea back to the screen have been considered.

Wanderlust and Gone were the poor souls who barely even made the needle move this weekend. Wanderlust is the bigger surprise of the two with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston seeing their lowest debuts to date. It didn’t help matters that Universal only put them up on 2000 screens. The studio’s Safe House continues to bring in a steady stream of cash, though, so that may have been the wiser of the two options.

Summit has nary an excuse for Gone, a film that seems to have served no one this weekend. It’s getting some of the worst reviews of the year so far – One For the Money remains at 2% over at Rotten Tomatoes, while Gone is boasting a 12% fresh rating – and now it’s not even proving itself as a good investment. Those 2186 screens Gone opened in will be open for whoever wants to step into them this coming weekend. The studio now turns to The Cold Light of Day to bring them out of the slump tankers like Man on the Ledge and Gone put them in.

Some Oscar contenders saw their box office increase this Academy Award weekend. The Artist, A Separation, My Week With Marilyn, Midnight in Paris, In Darkness, Bullhead, Chico & Rita, and The Help are all Oscar nominated films that saw an increase in both theater counts and weekend box office take. It’s telling that The Descendants, a front-runner for Best Picture and Best Actor, dropped out of 354 theaters and had its box office drop 27.3%. Fox Searchlight may have gotten early word on Sunday night’s winners.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. Act of Valor – $24.4m NEW
  2. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds – $15.5m NEW
  3. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – $13.3m (-32.5%) $76.6 total
  4. Safe House – $10.9m (-53.8%) $98.6m total
  5. The Vow – $9.9m (-57%) $102.9m total
  6. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – $9m (-59.3%) $38m total
  7. This Means War – $8.4m (-51.6%) $33.4m total
  8. Wanderlust – $6.5m NEW
  9. Gone – $4.7m NEW
  10. The Secret World of Arrietty – $4.3m (-32.5%) $14.5m total

$106.9m is actually a good number for this time of year. You have to go back to 2004 to find a time where the last weekend in February grossed higher. At that time, The Passion of the Christ had just unleashed itself on the world with $83.8m, so it was an anomalous weekend that year, anyway. Even with Tyler Perry’s ostensible steam loss and Wanderlust and Gone offering nothing, the films this weekend did a commendable job keeping the overall box office well above water. Much of that is thanks to films like Journey 2, Safe House, and The Vow continuing to pull decent numbers here in their third weekend out together.

Those three might have to hold on strong for another weekend coming up. The Lorax and Project X are the only big opening on Friday. While The Lorax could pull some big, animated feature numbers, it won’t be a record-breaker. Project X, on the other hand, is a wild card. It could drop in big, or it could tank hard.

We’ll be back later in the week to see how the weekend is shaping up.


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