Par's sci-fier nets $16.8 million Friday

Paramount’s monster movie “Cloverfield” smashed January box office records on Friday, chomping up $16.8 million from 3,411 theaters.

Not only is that figure the highest opening day of all-time for the month, outstripping the $10.2 million posted by Sony-Screen Gems’ “Underworld: Evolution” in 2006, it’s also the top Friday for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  Previous Friday champ for the frame belonged to Sony-Revolution’s “Black Hawk Down” which charted $9.9 million from its wide expansion in 2002. 

Fox-Spyglass Entertainment’s “27 Dresses” also proved to be a worthy date for moviegoers, grossing a respectable $7.7 million off 3,057 – the fifth highest Friday over the Martin Luther King weekend.  The romantic comedy’s opening day ranks behind 2005’s “Coach Carter” which bowed to $7.9 million.

While “Dresses” looks to be a solid second buy for auds, “Cloverfield” will continue to dominate the No. 1 spot, outdoing the top January weekends posted by the three-day wide expansion of “Black Hawk” ($28.6 million) and 2006 bow “Big Momma’s House 2″ ($27.7 million).

Overall, the top 10 films on Friday generated $42.4 million, up a boffo 59% over the same period a year ago.

In third place, Warner Bros.’ “The Bucket List” stayed healthy, taking a 35% dip from last Friday with $4.2 million and a current cume of $31.8 million.

“Juno” continued to kick up coin in Friday’s top five, grossing $3 million in fourth, repping a 34% downtick and a current total of $78.2 million.  Earlier in the week, the Jason Reitman comedy became Fox Searchlight’s highest domestic grosser of all-time, surpassing 2004’s “Sideways” ($71.5 million).

Overture Film’s “Mad Money,” the weekend’s third wide entry, cashed in fifth with $2.3 million from 2,470 hardtops.

In its second Friday, “First Sunday” felt the sting of the new competition, weathering a 64% drop at 2,213 engagements with $2.2 million.  In its first eight days, the Sony-Screen Gems comedy has laughed up $23 million.

Of the notable niche fare charting Friday, Woody Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dream,” distributed by the Weinstein Co., bowed to $107,000 in 107 locations for a $1,000 per theater average.

Among Golden Globe winning-fare, best drama winner “Atonement” was buoyant at the Friday B.O. despite the lack of a kudocast raking in $1.3 million for a current cume of $28.4 million.  The Focus Features period drama played in 1,291 locations, approximately 200 theaters shy of best musical winner “Sweeney Todd” which pulled in $776,000, down 26%, for a total domestic haul of $46.2 million.

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