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‘The Expendables’ outdraws a strong ‘Eat Pray Love’ while ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ does cult geek business.

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: ‘The Expendables’ was number one in its first day of release, taking in $13.3 million. The Sly Stallone and friends ensemble looks heading for an opening weekend of around $35 million. Although the picture cost $82 million, distributor Lionsgate is only on the hook for a $20 million distribution fee and a chunk of the (likely abundant) marketing costs. This is a massive win for the beleaguered House that Jigsaw Built, as Lionsgate absolutely had to open this above their $23 million peak if they wanted to prove they could play in the big leagues. As I’ve written any number of times, if you take away the ‘Saw’ sequels and the Tyler Perry pictures, the studio’s biggest opening weekend was ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ with $23.9 million and ‘The Haunting In Connecticut’ with $23 million. Be it ‘Rambo’ ($18.2 million), ‘Kick As’s ($19.8 million), ‘3:10 to Yuma’ ($14 million), or ‘Killers’ ($15.8 million), Lionsgate has had a problem opening seemingly break-out pictures above their $15-19 million ceiling.

At $13.3 million, the ode to 80s action nostalgia easily scored the studio’s biggest non-Saw/non-Madea opening day of all time. ‘The Expendables’ scored Lionsgates’s fifth-biggest single day gross ever. It also doubled the opening day of Stallone’s ‘Rambo’ ($6.6 million), very nearly doubles the opening day take of ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ ($7.7 million), and trounced the $3 million-ish opening days of ‘War,’ ‘Gamer,’ and the ‘Crank’ pictures. If the film can surpass the $33.6 million opening of ‘Saw III by Sunday’ (a reasonable 2.53x weekend multiplier), it can lay claim to Lionsgate’s second-biggest opening weekend ever, behind the $40 million haul of ‘Madea Goes to Jail’. If it can top the $33.4 (2.52x) million opening of ‘Spy Kids 3D: Game Over,’ it will be Sylvester Stallone’s biggest opening weekend ever (although Stallone was scoring $20 million weekends in the pre-Batman 1980s, when only ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Star Wars’ achieved such feats).

Not to be outdone, Sony and Julia Roberts scored a big win with ‘Eat Pray Love.’ Opening with $8.5 million, the film looks to end the weekend with just over $25 million. This was a crucial test for Roberts, as it was the third film of her return to movies (it’s not a comeback, as she simply chose to take time off). The first outing was ‘Duplicity,’ which was unfairly tagged as a flop for opening with $13.9 million and ending up with $40.5 million domestic and $73 million worldwide on a $60 million budget. The twisty-turny romantic thriller co-starring Clive Owen was not exactly in her safe zone (it also cost way too much for the kind of film it was), but the adaptation of a best-selling spiritual travelogue is the kind of thing she gets big bucks to open, and she delivered. Discounting ensemble pieces like ‘Valentine’s Day’ (she has a glorified cameo in the career-high $56 million-opener) and the ‘Ocean’ series, this is the third-biggest opening day of Julia Roberts’s career (behind the $11 million opening day of ‘America’s Sweethearts’ and the $12 million opening Friday of ‘Runaway Bride’).

If ‘The Expendables’ vs. ‘Eat Pray Love’ was the ‘guys vs. gals’ throw-down at the box office (guess what? they both won!), then ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ was attempting to play the geek spoiler. Despite some rave reviews from the very nerd niche it was pandering to, the film opened with $4.54 million for fourth place. ‘The Other Guys,’ last weekend’s champion comedy was in third place, tumbling 57% for a $5.7 million second Friday. Universal’s ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’ didn’t have a ghastly opening day take, although the film cost an exorbitant $60 million. Like ‘Kick Ass and Snakes on a Plane,’ this was another film that was considered the second coming by the geeks. And since geek culture is considered mainstream by so many entertainment journalist, they all foolishly assumed it was a mainstream sentiment. The film was tailor-made for young gaming/comic book nerds (of both genders, despite the adolescent male fantasy at play), and that’s pretty much who the picture played to.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos

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