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Weekend Box Office: The Roommate Decks Cameron’s 3-D Sanctum; Oscar Hits Hold

Weekend Box Office: The Roommate Decks Cameron's 3-D Sanctum; Oscar Hits Hold

Super Bowl weekend is not primetime for moviegoing, thus low-ball thriller The Roommate topped the box office frame, followed by Sanctum, James Cameron’s bid to support quality 3-D (and keep courting deep sea danger). Anthony D’Alessandro does the numbers:

Gossip Girl vamp Leighton Meester lured audiences with stalker thriller The Roommate, stealing $15.6 million at 2,534 venues in what was a sleepy Super Bowl weekend.  The frame’s second wide release, Universal/Relativity Media’s deep-sea actioner Sanctum was B.O. plankton, excavating $9.2 million from 2,787.

As Meester looks to parachute from TV to features, a No. 1 B.O. conquest is a plus on her resume, but we’ve seen bigger openings over the football holiday frame, especially from Screen Gems.  The Roommate’s opening couldn’t outrun the label’s previous Super Bowl horror bow When a Stranger Calls ($21.6 million) and that film didn’t even headline a sexy TV star. As Sanctum’s producer, James Cameron had no problem showing up for internet/radio interviews and launching a Twitter account to promote the film. After all, his second passion next to filmmaking is diving. But for the masses, it doesn’t matter if Cameron produced a 3-D tractor pull: If he didn’t direct it, they didn’t care.

Sanctum, like Roommate, also pulled in females, 53% to 47% males; 65% were over the age of 30. 84% of all B.O. was generated off 3-D, a lofty take which is becoming the norm for thriller, Z-grade fare like Piranha. Cinema Score was a miserable C+.

Studio execs have historically griped about the football holiday frame and the challenges in releasing films, especially when Sunday returns can drop as much as 70% from Saturday.  However, in recent years studios have profited from a number of Hail Mary passes, mainly genre and chick flicks. Disney’s 2008 3-D concert film Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour owns the all-time Super Bowl weekend opening record with $31.1 million followed by Screen Gems’ Nicholas Sparks adaptation Dear John at $30.5 million – the best bow ever for the Sony label. Fox also proved in 2009 that men actually do go to movie theaters during this time, racking up a $24.7 million bow for the Liam Neeson actioner Taken ($145 million domestic).

Hence, there’s an audience over Super Bowl weekend, it just depends what distributors want to throw at them and by reviewers’ standards, Roommate was formulaic with a 9% rotten Tomatometer score, while Sanctum, at 30% rotten, was “a horror movie without a visible monster; a deep dive into shallow characters who bray at one another in a harsh English-based dialect I’m told is Australian,” wrote Time’s Richard Corliss. Luckily for studio accountants, the weekend’s new releases were cheap: Roommate touted a bargain-basement price of $16 million; Universal/Relativity was on the hook for a $12 million acquisition fee.

Sony smartly positioned Roommate around Meester’s image, as she is more recognizable than co-star Mina Kelly (Friday Night Lights).  But as one agent told Vulture.com, “I’ve never seen an uglier billboard.”

Roommate wasn’t a dumb career move for Meester. Much like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who starred in the 1997 fall hit I Know What You Did Last Summer ($15.8 million, $72.6 million domestic B.O.), Meester chose to target her female (65% of attendees) under-21 fanbase (61%) in a sexy horror film, which they awarded a B Cinema Score (B- overall).  Roommate’s heels could snap in the weeks to come as most genre titles fall precipitously in their second outings. And Justin Bieber is showing up at the multiplex this Friday to kick ass with his 3-D concert doc.

From here on, Hollywood is banking on the Gossip Girl clan, including Meester, to choose their films wisely.  Much like the ‘it’ halo that surrounded the Friends cast in their heyday, the town is hot for their feature prospects. In brief, Blake Lively is coming off the Ben Affleck hit The Town with The Green Lantern still to come; Ed Westwick is booked for Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar.  And Meester is bankable beyond Gossip Girl baddie Blair Waldorf as an established brand in pop music and fashion.

Elsewhere, Oscar noms fueled Black Swan, True Grit and The King’s Speech, which registered modest drops. Nominee Portman’s pop rom-com No Strings Attached held strong with a 37% decline.

Here’s the Top Ten Box Office Chart:

1. The Roommate (Sony/Screen Gems): $15.6 million in its first weekend at 2,534 theaters.  $6,156 theater average. Domestic total: $15.6 million.
2. Sanctum (Universal/Relativity): $9.2 million in its first weekend at 2,787 theaters.  $3,310 theater average. Domestic total: $9.2 million.
3. No Strings Attached (Paramount/Spyglass): $8.4 million down 37% in its third weekend at 3,050 theaters.  $2,754 theater average. Domestic total: $51.8 million.
4. The King’s Speech (Weinstein Co.): $8.3 million down 25% in its eleventh weekend at 2,584 theaters.  $3,216 theater average.  Domestic total: $84.1 million.
5. Green Hornet (Sony): $6.1 million down 45% in its fourth weekend at 3,033 theaters.  $2,011 theater average. Domestic total: $87.2 million.
6. The Rite (Warner Bros./New Line): $5.565 million down 62% in its second weekend at 2,985 theaters.  $1,864 theater average. Domestic total: $23.7 million.
7. The Mechanic (CBS Films): $5.37 million down 53% in its second weekend at 2,704 theaters.  $1,987 theater average. Domestic total: $20.1 million.
8. True Grit (Paramount/Skydance): $4.75 million down 37% in its seventh weekend at 2,902 theaters.  $1,637 theater average. Domestic total: $155 million.
9. The Dilemma (Universal): $x million down x% in its fourth weekend at 2,545 theaters.  $x theater average. Domestic total: $x million.
10. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight): $3.4 million down 34% in its tenth weekend at 1,977 theaters.  $1,720 theater average. Domestic total: $95.9 million. 

[On-set Roommate photo by THR’s David Strick: see his gallery here.]

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