Scorsese thriller scares up $40.2 million

Paramount rolled out its Martin Scorsese thriller “Shutter Island” this weekend with solid results, scaring up an estimated $40.2 million at 2,991 playdates — the biggest opening for both Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio.

As the only wide release, “Shutter Island” had no trouble overpowering the frame’s holdover crop, led by Warner Bros.’ “Valentine’s Day,” which fell to the No. 2 spot in its soph sesh, earning $17.2 million.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox’s holdover giant “Avatar” maintained a strong grip on the box office, grossing an estimated $16.1 million in its 10th frame for a domestic cume of $687.8 million, while the studio’s family-friendly offering “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” followed with $15.3 million, down 51% in its soph sesh for a cume of $58.5 million.

Universal’s “The Wolfman” lost a considerable amount of steam after a successful launch last weekend, dropping 69% with an estimated gross of $9.8 million. “Wolfman” opened to $35.6 million and has a cume of $50.3 million.

Overall, the frame’s top 10 gained 6% over the same weekend last year.

In limited release, Summit bowed its Roman Polanski mystery pic “The Ghost Writer” at four locations, grossing an estimated $179,000 for an impressive per-screen average of $44,750.

“Shutter Island” launched day-and-date at 462 locations in nine overseas territories, earning an estimated $9.1 million. The film’s top earnings came from Spain, where it grossed $3.4 million.

On the domestic front, tracking for the R-rated film was evenly split at 51% male and 49% female and played consistently among age groups 17 and up.

Par vice chair Rob Moore praised Scorsese and credited the director as one of the leading factors contributing to a healthy opening.

“It feels like a movie that garners a lot of attention in conversation,” Moore said. “I think the good thing about the way the film is positioned, for older audiences looking for movies in this genre, this movie now has a pretty clear playing field to run.”

Scorsese’s previous top opener, “The Departed,” earned $26.9 million in its first weekend in 2006, while DiCaprio’s best-opening film was Steven Spielberg’s 2003 pic “Catch Me if You Can” with $30.1 million. Both players typically see strong holdover performances. “The Departed,” Scorsese’s highest-grossing film so far, earned $132.4 million. “Titanic” still ranks as DiCaprio’s top earner with domestic totals reaching $600.8 million.

“Shutter Island” tells the story of two U.S. marshals, played by DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, who investigate the case of a missing woman at a hospital for the criminally insane. Topnotch supporting cast includes Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams. Pic screened out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival last week.

Par had skedded the film for a year-end release but changed dates to cut marketing costs. The move proved to be beneficial given the far less crowded weekend and perhaps a longer period for the film to gestate in the minds of the public.

“Shutter Island” earned $14.1 million on Friday and saw a 15% uptick on Saturday with $16.3 million.

After a record-breaking debut last weekend, Warner’s “Valentine’s Day” dropped 69%. Pic was expected to see a sizable drop, especially given its theme-based holiday bow. “Valentine’s Day” launched with $63.1 million to become the all-time highest opener on Presidents Day Weekend and has cumed $87.4 million.

Fox had three of the frame’s top 10 performers with holdovers “Avatar,” “Percy” and “Tooth Fairy,” which earned $4.5 million, down just 26% in its fifth frame. “Percy” and “Tooth Fairy” continue to benefit as the frame’s top kid fare.

Distrib’s specialty arm, Fox Searchlight, hit notable highs with “Crazy Heart,” starring Oscar-nominated thesps Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“Crazy Heart” held steady in its 10th frame, slipping just 25% for an estimated gross of $3 million at 1,089 locations. Pic scored a per-screen average of $2,778. Searchlight said it hopes to continue to build momentum through the March 7 Oscarcast.

Meanwhile, distrib’s Bollywood pic “My Name Is Khan” earned $720,000 at 125, averaging $5,760 per screen. Pic fell 63% after last week’s launch, when it became the highest opener for a Bollywood film in the U.S. with a three-day total of $1.9 million.

Summit’s “Ghost Writer” played well among older auds and was evenly split between men and women. Distrib hopes to capitalize on a director prize for Polanski at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday as it continues a steady rollout of the film in the coming weeks.

“Ghost Writer” will expand to 10 additional markets next weekend with added screens in New York and L.A.

Overseas, “Shutter Island” saw healthy returns in Australia, where it debuted to $2.5 million at 213 locations, outperforming Fox’s “Avatar,” which grossed $1.4 million at 254 in that territory.

“Avatar” continued to dominate in most territories with an estimated $51 million at 7,600 locations in 71 markets for a whopping international cume of $1.78 billion.

France led the attack, up 13% to generate $6.3 million at 529, followed by Germany with $5.7 million at 544. “Avatar” has cumed $165.1 million in France — the film’s highest-grossing overseas market — and $134 million in Germany.

French auds also turned out for Warner’s bow of “Valentine’s Day,” which grossed $5.3 million at 408 locations. Pic’s international weekend gross totaled $23 million from 5,100 locations in 58 territories.

In the U.K., Disney’s hand-drawn toon “The Princess and the Frog” saw a 19% uptick in its third frame, earning $2.8 million at 502 behind “Avatar,” which grossed $4.6 million at 408. Overseas revenue for “Princess” totaled $12.1 million at 3,397 locations in 40 territories for a cume of $131.5 million.

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