Paramount film will still turn a profit

Paramount’s “Cloverfield” may have posted the biggest January opening of all time, but it’s turning out to be more of a marketing win than a runaway crowd pleaser at the box office.

Pic plunged 68% in its second weekend at the domestic box office, putting “Cloverfield” in that category of films that rely on a huge opening weekend, akin to a much-hyped pay-per-view event.

Yet even among those films, a 68% decline is on the high side, up there with drops seen by “The Hulk” and “Elektra” in their second frames.

But Par spent just $25 million to produce the movie, which has grossed $64.3 million in its first 10 days domestically, according to Rentrak. The film, still very early in its run abroad, has grossed $15 million internationally from only a few territories. Par, which likely spent as much marketing the movie as on the production budget, says the movie will easily be a financial success.

Most in Hollywood weren’t surprised by “Cloverfield’s” precipitous falloff. The pic, produced by J.J. Abrams and shot to resemble a homevideo, got a “C” cinema score, meaning moviegoers were lukewarm at best about what they saw.

If anything, competitors applaud Paramount for opening “Cloverfield” to such big numbers through a well-executed marketing campaign that made the film a must-see, particularly for younger men and teen boys.

“They eventized the film. They had a finite audience and they burned through it quickly. Word-of-mouth takes care of the rest,” one distribution exec at a rival studio said.

“Cloverfield” was a crucial test for Brad Grey’s Paramount, which needs a strong 2008.

Bowing over the Martin Luther King holiday, the pic grossed $40 million for the three days and $46 million for the four days, including $1 million from midnight shows on opening day. That’s easily the best showing ever for a January debut.

In its second frame, film grossed $12.7 million, dropping it to No. 4.

“We feel like the movie is doing great. We opened big, and we dropped big. And for young males, we made it a summer-type opening weekend,” a Par spokesman said.

It has become commonplace for summer event movies to sport huge opening numbers, only to drop substantially the second weekend, although not generally by as much as 68%. “Spider-Man 3,” which grossed $151.1 in its opening, fell 62% in its second frame.

“This past weekend was a correction, based on the fact that you had such a big opening weekend that was a holiday. Plus, you had two new movies coming in that were going after the same male audience,” the Par spokesman said.

The new entries were 20th Century Fox’s sword-and-sandal spoof “Meet the Spartans” and “Rambo,” from Lionsgate and the Weinstein Co.

In a surprise coup, “Spartans” came in No. 1 for the weekend after narrowly beating “Rambo.” Two films grossed $18.5 million and $18.2 million, respectively.

“Cloverfield” wasn’t just beaten by newbies this past weekend, though. Fox holdover “27 Dresses” declined just 42% in its second frame to gross $13.4 million and come in No. 3. Pic, which lost out to “Cloverfield” when the two opened against each other, has a domestic cume of $45.1 million.

“I think everybody expected ‘Cloverfield’ to take a big hit,” another distrib said. “No one was surprised.”

Overseas, “Cloverfield” grossed $9.2 million in its second frame, led by a strong $3.7 million launch in Russia and $2.5 million gross in Korea. On Friday, pic will bow in a number of territories, including the U.K., Germany, Spain, Italy, Mexico and the Philippines.

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