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Paul Blart Mall Cop, Kevin James

Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc

Kevin James can open a movie. The late Notorious B.I.G. can pack theaters. 3D movies can sell (expensive) tickets. And, kids, Clint Eastwood can kick your butt. Still.

Those were the findings from a monster weekend at the box office that was led, surprisingly, by James' Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a $26 million, mustache-sporting goof that grossed a serious $33.8 million Friday-Sunday, per studio estimates compiled today by Exhibitor Relations.

Eastwood's Gran Torino ($22.2 million), last weekend's No. 1 film, slipped to second, but stayed strong. Notorious ($21.5 million),  the Sean Combs-produced biopic about his friend, the slain rap star, debuted in fourth, but made more money per theater than any film reporting grosses.

My Bloody Valentine 3D ($21.9 million) cost moviegoers who enjoyed the ducking and covering about $2-$3 more per ticket. 

Drilling down into the numbers:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day isn't until tomorrow, but already Exhibitor Relations says this weekend is Hollywood's biggest-grossing MLK weekend ever, and one of its Top 10-grossing weekends of all time.
  • Who on Earth bought tickets to Paul Blart? Everybody. According to Sony, the movie appealed evenly to men and women, and nearly as evenly to the young and not-as-young. Fifty-six percent of ticketbuyers were under age 25; 44 percent were over 25.
  • There is no better thing for a film, or a studio, than to beat the expectations game, which is what Paul Blart did. Going into the weekend, My Bloody Valentine and even Notorious were pegged as possible No. 1s. Paul Blart, James' first film as a solo star, was pegged to make $25 million. Over the entire, four-day holiday weekend.
  • Overall, Gran Torino has grossed $73.2 million. And counting. "Who would've expected Clint Eastwood to have a $100 million [hit] with that?" asked Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock. "I would've expected it with another Dirty Harrry."
  • Notorious earned its multi-milions the hard way, debuting on 1,500 fewer screens than Paul Blart, and nearly 900 fewer than My Bloody Valentine.
  • My Bloody Valentine 3D's bottom line was boosted by higher-than-average admissions that are the norm at 3D-equipped theaters. So, does that mean Bloody Valentine's $21.9 million take, on the low side of expectations, was good or not? "I think it's decent," Bock said. "It probably sold less tickets than The Unborn sold a week ago, so that's kind of a surprise."
  • Beverly Hills Chihuahua made $12 million more off 56 fewer screens than the new tween comedy Hotel for Dogs ($17.7 million). 
  • You wouldn't know it by looking at its plunge in the standings—from second place to sixth—but Bride Wars ($11.8 million) held up okay, with ticket sales down a better-than-average 44 percent from last weekend. 
  • How does a movie crack the Top 10? See to it that your ticket sales go up more than 13,000 percent from one weekend to the next. At least that's how Defiance ($9.2 million) did it. 
  • A batch of high-profile holiday movies dropped out the Top 10: Brad Pitt's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Adam Sandler's Bedtime Stories, Jim Carrey's Yes Man, Tom Cruise's Valkyrie and Will Smith's Seven Pounds. 
  • For Pitt's Benjamin Button ($5.6 million), the good news is the movie topped $100 million. The bad news is its Top 10 run lasted only three weekends. The hopeful news is Oscar nominations are out on Thursday.
  • Sandler had a good weekend. For one thing, Bedtime Stories ($4.8 million) broke $100 million overall. For a bigger thing, he produced Paul Blart.  
  • Valkyrie ($3.9 million) pushed its overall gross to $77.6 million, making it the first Cruise film since 2005's War of the Worlds to make back its reported budget from its domestic box office alone.
  • Remember how Carrey watchers were told Yes Men ($2.7 million) would end up outdoing Fun with Dick and Jane? Well, it still can. Provided the tapped-out Yes Man, now at about $94 million, holds a garage sale, cashes in its aluminum cans and somehow comes up with another $16 million before it leaves theaters for good.  
  • With a $70 million gross off a $55 million budget, Seven Pounds ($1.2 million, per Box Office Mojo) did not bomb. Until you compare it to Smith's The Pursuit of Happyness, which made $163.6 million off the same $55 million.

Here's a recap of the top-grossing weekend films based on estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

  1. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $33.8 million
  2. Gran Torino, $22.2 million
  3. My Bloody Valentine 3D, $21.9 million
  4. Notorious, $21.5 million
  5. Hotel for Dogs, $17.7 million
  6. Bride Wars, $11.8 million
  7. The Unborn, $9.8 million
  8. Defiance, $9.2 million
  9. Marley & Me, $6.3 million
  10. Slumdog Millionaire, $5.9 million