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'Act of Valor' Tops, Jennifer Aniston & Chris Pine Fizzle

Rachel McAdams The Vow Channing Tatum
Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in The Vow

This Oscar weekend, Feb. 24-26, the top movie at the North American box office will undoubtedly be Act of Valor, featuring (as per the film's publicity) actual Navy SEALs in a story of red-white-and-blue courage and valor and rotten reviews (a mere 19 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics). According to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh's action flick easily topped Friday's box office, collecting $9.05 million (about $400,000 less than early estimates posted late last night) at 3,039 locations.

As per Deadline.com, distributor Relativity Media acquired the film for $13 million, in addition to committing itself to spending $30 million in marketing and distribution. For a $43 million investment, a likely $25-27 million in three days wouldn't be bad at all. (At Box Office Mojo, Ray Subers had been expecting a $20.5 million opening.) But that total isn't great, either, unless Act of Valor manages to have unusually sturdy legs for an action film without stars, a recognizable brand name, or positive reviews.

Tyler Perry Good Deeds Gabrielle Union
Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union in Tyler Perry's Good Deeds

At no. 2, Tyler Perry's latest movie, Good Deeds, opened with $5.5 million – or nearly $1 million less than early estimates posted last night. Unless ticket sales pick up today and early tomorrow, Good Deeds will have trouble surpassing $15 million by Sunday evening.

For comparison's sake: Good Deeds' per-theater average was $2,580 at 2,132 locations; Act of Valor's was $2,978 at 3,039 locations. All things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. In other words, Good Deeds is much weaker performer than Act of Valor. And if studio estimates are accurate, Perry's latest will also pale in comparison to the opening-weekend grosses of several of his most recent films, particularly Madea Goes to Jail ($41.03 million) and Why Did I Get Married Too ($29.28 million).

In addition to Perry, the Lionsgate-distributed Good Deeds also features Thandie Newton and Gabrielle Union. The film has a dismal 11 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Trailing Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh's Act of Valor and Tyler Perry's Good Deeds on Friday, at no. 3 the Rachel McAdams / Channing Tatum romantic drama The Vow added $3.25 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The Vow's current total domestic gross is $96.25 million, which means it should be passing the $100 million milestone some time today – or at the very latest tomorrow afternoon.

The Vow has a rotten 26 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics, but that certainly won't stop it from becoming Rachel McAdams' biggest personal box office hit (not including the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movies and the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson comedy Wedding Crashers). The Vow is already ahead of The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) and Red Eye (2005), it's far ahead of Morning Glory (2010), and without adjusting for inflation, The Vow has already surpassed the total take of both Mean Girls (2004) and The Notebook (2004).

In number of ticket of sales, however, the two earlier releases are still ahead: Mean Girls would have collected about $109 million in 2012 dollars, while The Notebook would have grossed about $103.5 million. (That's the reason why comparative box office figures have any value only after they're adjusted for inflation: it reflects actual ticket-sales figures.)

Overseas, audiences don't seem all that enthusiastic about love and amnesia stories, as The Vow has pulled in a relatively modest $22.8 million abroad after nearly two weeks, including playdates in major territories such as Australia, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. In fact, The Vow may end up following the pattern of McAdams' previous romantic box office hit, The Notebook. Nick Cassavetes' melodrama about love and memory loss co-starring Ryan Gosling, James Garner, and Gena Rowlands, generated $81 million in grosses in North America – but a mere $34.6 million elsewhere.

Directed by Michael Sucsy, The Vow also features American Horror Story's two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange (Tootsie, Blue Sky) and The Piano's Sam Neill. Even taking marketing/distribution expenses into account, this early 2012 domestic sleeper hit – budgeted at a relatively modest $30 million – is in all likelihood already in the black. A rare feat these days.

Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams The Vow image: Kerry Hayes / Screen Gems

Tyler Perry / Gabrielle Union / Good Deeds photo: Quantrell Colbert / Lionsgate.

Chris Pine This Means War Reese Witherspoon Tom Hardy
Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy in This Means War

Trailing Act of Valor, Good Deeds, and The Vow at the domestic box office on Friday, at no. 4 Brad Peyton's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island added $3.2 million, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The 3D action-adventure tale, which is performing exceedingly well overseas, features Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Next in line at no. 5 was the Denzel Washington / Ryan Reynolds actioner Safe House, with $3.1 million. Depending on how The Vow, Journey 2, and Safe House perform on the weekend proper – as a kiddie flick, Journey 2 has the edge – there could be some switching around when final weekend figures are released on Monday. Safe House topped the U.S. and Canada box office chart last weekend.

At. no. 6 was This Means War, a box office disappointment starring Water for Elephants' Reese Witherspoon, The Dark Knight Rises' Tom Hardy, and Star Trek's Chris Pine. The action-comedy scored an estimated $2.75 million. After eight days, it has yet to reach $30 million domestically.

As mentioned in a previous post, Reese Witherspoon hasn't had a personal domestic hit since Seth Gordon's Four Christmas, co-starring Vince Vaughn, four years ago. (Obviously I'm not including the highly successful animated feature Monsters vs. Aliens.) Her pairing with Robert Pattinson in Water for Elephants scored $117 million worldwide, at least in part because of Pattinson's large international fan base.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was Nicolas Cage's latest domestic flop. Although Spirit of Vengeance has passed the $30 million mark, it has done so by a very small margin despite costlier 3D ticket prices: its estimated total is $31.38 million after adding $2.35 million on Friday.

The Ghost Rider sequel will have trouble matching its $57 million budget in North America – let alone recovering it. As mentioned before on this site, that's not good news for Cage, who has starred in a series of flops of late. The last Nicolas Cage movie to gross over $100 million in the U.S. and Canada was National Treasure: Book of Secrets, a blockbuster that took in $219.96 million in late '07/early '08.

The original Ghost Rider drew $115.8 million in early 2007. Spirit of Vengeance will be quite lucky if it reaches half that amount. That isn't exactly good news for Sony Pictures, which banked with partner Hyde Park Entertainment the sequel's reported $75-$80 million production budget – not including marketing/distribution expenses.

Apart from Book of Secrets and the original Ghost Rider, in the last five years the only Cage movies to have brought in more than $50 million in the U.S. and Canada were Alex Proyas' 2009 paranormal thriller Knowing with $79.95 million and Jon Turteltaub's Disney-released 2010 fantasy The Sorcerer's Apprentice, co-starring Jay Baruchel, with $63.15 million.

This Means War photo: Kimberley French / 20th Century Fox.

Amanda Seyfried Gone
Amanda Seyfried, Gone

Starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, David Wain's Wanderlust opened at no. 8 with an embarrassing $2.2 million at 2,002 sites, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Wanderlust's debut was so poor that it trailed even last weekend's weak performers such as the Reese Witherspoon / Chris Pine / Tom Hardy comedy This Means War and the Nicolas Cage 3D actioner Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Wanderlust will be lucky if it reaches $6 million by Sunday evening.

For comparison's sake: The Switch, Jennifer Aniston's 2010 comedy co-starring Jason Bateman, was considered a major box office disappointment when it opened at 2,012 theaters with $8.43 million. The Switch went on to collect a measly $27.77 million domestically and $22 million overseas. Wanderlust will likely fare considerably worse. The film's total domestic gross, in fact, will in all probability amount to less than the opening-weekend grosses of two other recent comedies co-starring Aniston: Adam Sandler's Just Go with It ($30.51m) and Horrible Bosses ($28.3m).

Reviews surely didn't help matters much for Wanderlust, as the Universal comedy has a mediocre 52 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. Also featured in the film are Ray Liotta, Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Alan Alda, Lauren Ambrose, and Ken Marino. Among Wanderlust's producers are director Wain, co-star Rudd, Marino, and Judd Apatow.

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Heitor Dhalia's Summit Entertainment-distributed Gone managed to perform even more poorly than Wanderlust, opening in ninth place. Gone, which has a rotten 15 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, is expected to collect less than $5 million at 2,186 theaters this weekend after bringing in an estimated $1.66 million on Friday. Daniel Sunjata, Sebastian Stan, Wes Bentley, Jennifer Carpenter, and Nick Searcy are also featured.

Amanda Seyfried hasn't had a $100m+ box office hit since co-starring with Meryl Streep in the 2008 musical Mamma Mia!. Dear John, opposite Channing Tatum, and Letters to Juliet, with Gael García Bernal and Vanessa Redgrave, are the only two other Seyfried movies – both romantic dramas – to have earned more than $50 million domestically in the last five years. Perhaps she should team up with Tatum in another movie romance melo, as his The Vow – co-starring Seyfried's fellow Mean Girls player Rachel McAdams – has become early 2012's sleeper hit.

Rounding out the top twelve movies at the North American box office on Friday were the following:

Dane DeHaan's Chronicle with $1.08 million, Studio Ghibli's Disney-distributed The Secret World of Arrietty with $1.05 million, and Daniel Radcliffe's The Woman in Black with $875,000, which should be passing the $50 million mark by Monday or Tuesday next week. Gone from the top twelve were Alexander Payne / George Clooney's The Descendants, Michel Hazanavicius / Jean Dujardin / Bérénice Bejo's The Artist, and George Lucas / Natalie Portman / Liam Neeson / Ewan McGregor's The Phantom Menace.

Notice that not one Oscar contender can be found among the top twelve movies on Oscar weekend. Apparently, the Oscar-boost is now geared towards DVD sales.

Amanda Seyfried / Gone photo: Saeed Adyani / Summit Entertainment.

Feb. 25 early morning

Jennifer Aniston Wanderlust Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Wanderlust

It's Oscar weekend. So, what are the top movies at the North American box office? The Artist? The Descendants? Hugo? Try Act of Valor, featuring (as per the film's publicity) actual Navy SEALs in a story of red-white-and-blue honor and valor and all that good stuff that unpatriotic film critics have given a putrid 19 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes (top critics).

Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, Act of Valor is expected to gross $27 million over the weekend – following $9.4 million at 3,039 locations on Friday – according to early, rough estimates found at Deadline.com. As per Deadline, Relativity acquired the film for $13 million, in addition to committing itself to spending $30 million in marketing and distribution.

So, for a $43 million investment, $27 million in three days isn't bad at all. (At Box Office Mojo, Ray Subers had been expecting a $20.5 million opening.) But it isn't great, either, unless Act of Valor manages to have unusually sturdy legs for an action film without stars, a recognizable brand name, or (at the very least moderately) strong reviews.

At no. 2, Tyler Perry's latest movie, Good Deeds, opened with $6.3 million on Friday, and is expected to reach a so-so $17.5 million by Sunday evening. Good Deeds' per-theater average – around $3,100 – is similar to that of Act of Valor, but it's playing at only 2,132 locations. All things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. In other words, Good Deeds is much weaker performer than Act of Valor. And if early estimates are accurate, Perry's latest also pales in comparison to the opening-weekend grosses of several of his most recent films, particularly Madea Goes to Jail ($41.03 million) and Why Did I Get Married Too ($29.28 million).

In addition to Perry, Good Deeds also features Thandie Newton and Gabrielle Union. The film has a dismal 11 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, David Wain's Wanderlust opened with an embarrassing $2.5 million at 2,002 sites. Reviews surely didn't help much, as the Universal comedy has a mediocre 52 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. Also featured: Ray Liotta, Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Alan Alda, Lauren Ambrose, and Ken Marino. Among Wanderlust's producers are David Wain, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, and Judd Apatow.

Faring even worse is Heitor Dhalia's Summit Entertainment-distributed Gone, starring Amanda Seyfried. The film, which has a rotten 15 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, is expected to collect only $4.6 million at 2,186 theaters this weekend after bringing in $1.7 million on Friday. Daniel Sunjata, Sebastian Stan, Wes Bentley, Jennifer Carpenter, and Nick Searcy are also featured.

Trailing Act of Valor and Good Deeds this weekend should be the Denzel Washington / Ryan Reynolds thriller Safe House, the Rachel McAdams / Channing Tatum romance The Vow, and the Dwayne Johnson / Josh Hutcherson / Vanessa Hudgens' adventure tale Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.

Remember: those are early, rough estimates. Studio estimates for Friday will be released Saturday morning. Weekend estimates come out on Sunday. Box-office actuals will be released on Monday.

Paul Rudd / Jennifer Aniston / Wanderlust photo: Gemma La Mana / Universal Studios.

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5 Comments to 'Act of Valor' Tops, Jennifer Aniston & Chris Pine Fizzle

  1. John

    Seyfried's movies have done well internationally. In Time made only $37 million domestically, but it has made over $149 million worldwide. Dear John made $112 worldwide. Red Riding Hood made about $36 million in the US, but it's worldwide total is over $89 million. Letters to Juliet came in at over $74 million worldwide. Add Mamma Mia's $600 million+ and she has a pretty impressive track record for worldwide box office, which is what studios care about. Also, she takes on starring roles, not supporting roles or roles in large ensemble casts, like other young actresses are fond of doing. Gone is Seyfried's first true bomb as a lead actress, and Summit and their lack of a marketing campaign (they are so cheap that they didn't have enough posters made to cover all theaters showing Gone) can be blamed for that.

  2. This side-splitting comedy deserves kudos all around with great performances by Rudd, Aniston and of course Alan Alda as the hippie commune elder who eats meat on the sly at a local gas station. There is some full frontal male nudity which I found hysterically funny, but I guess in today's priggish, hypocritical world where everyone must be rich and well dressed…(on the silver screen)…Rocky woulddn't have made it. I laughed my head off! :)

  3. zac

    @quidnunc

    Friday's earnings/number of theaters, Good Deeds is at par with Act of Valor.

    Yes and no. Did you read the article? All things being equal — or “at par with” — movies showing at fewer theaters should have higher per-theater averages. That wasn't the Good Deeds/Act of Valor case on Friday. At all.

    “Wanderlust” is opening this weekend. “The Vow” is on its third weekend. “This Means War” on its second. “Wanderlust” bombed.

  4. quidnunc

    Friday's earnings/number of theaters, Good Deeds is at par with Act of Valor.

    And Wanderlust performed not that bad with $2.5M from just 2,000 theaters (at par with This Means War $2.8M/3,189 theaters and The Vow $3.2M/3,038 theaters)

    Do the Math.

  5. lynn

    I went to see wanderlust last night and it was hilarious. I'm going to stop listening to critics. Most of them look like they have no sense of humor anyway.