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Box Office: ‘Deadpool’ Obliterates Records With $135 Million Debut

Deadpool,” a loose-limbed comic book adaptation, ravaged the President’s Weekend box office, torpedoing records and reigniting the career of star Ryan Reynolds.

Filmed for an economical $58 million, the 20th Century Fox release has already made back its production budget and then some, racking up $135 million over its first three days in theaters. It could make $150 million over the four-day holiday. That easily surpasses the previous President’s Day weekend and February record holder, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which set a high-water mark with its $85.2 million debut last year. It also stands as the biggest ever bow for an R-rated movie, sailing past “The Matrix Reloaded’s” $91.8 million launch.

Just as “Fifty Shades of Grey” broke out the whips and handcuffs to reinvigorate the tired erotic drama genre, “Deadpool” relied on raunchy humor and a fourth-wall breaking central character to apply a fresh gloss on superhero movies at a time when costumed avengers threaten to reach saturation levels.

Fox must have had an inkling that it had struck gold after its heavily pirated Comic-Con presentation sent fanboys into a state of grace. Its marketing rollout played up the character’s humor, with one poster having Deadpool stretched out on a bear skin rug, striking a come-hither, Burt Reynolds pose.

“This campaign made ‘Deadpool’ accessible to all quadrants regardless of age, gender or ethnicity,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution chief. “This character connected.”

“Deadpool’s” success extends a lifeline for Reynolds, once a rising star in Hollywood, whose ascent was derailed by costly bombs such as “Green Lantern” and “R.I.P.D.” The actor first played Deadpool in 2009’s ” X-Men Origins: Wolverine” then labored for years to bring a spin-off version to screens. A sequel is already in the works.

“All it takes is one gigantic, massive, record-breaking movie to put a career back on track,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore.

Despite a cold front that kept much of the East Coast indoors and contemplating hacking up their armoires for kindling, ticket sales remained robust throughout the holiday.

Warner Bros.’ “How to Be Single” looked to capitalize on Valentine’s Day, bringing in largely female crowds to the tune of a humdrum $18.7 million from 3,343 locations. It should make in the low $20 million range over its first four days, finishing in third place. Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, and Leslie Mann star as four women navigating the Big Apple sans significant others. The update on the “Sex and the City” formula set the studio back $38 million to bring to screens.

Paramount’s “Zoolander 2,” which revisits dim-bulb male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) more than a decade after he first stormed runways, disappointed, earning roughly $15.7 million from 3,394 locations for a fourth place finish. It is projected to generate $18 million over the holiday. The high fashion satire cost $50 million to produce. Paramount executives said they always expected “Deadpool” to rule the weekend, but they hadn’t anticipated the size of its launch.

“‘Deadpool’ just exceeded expectations of what it could be and that was devastating to other movies in the marketplace,” said Megan Colligan, president of worldwide distribution and marketing for Paramount.

Bad reviews may have been another culprit. The comedy, which brought back original stars Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson, received a meagre 23% “rotten” rating on critics aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes.  Variety, for instance, labelled the film “a disappointment-slash-misfire, the orange mocha crappuccino of movie sequels.”

Colligan sounded shocked by the response, saying, “a comedy can survive negative reviews, but these went a notch nasty, which sort of surprised me…the movie is silly fun, with an iconic character, so it was unfortunate.”

Last weekend’s champ, “Kung Fu Panda 3” added $19.6 million to its $100.3 million haul. It should make $26 million for the four-day holiday, finishing in second place.

“The Revenant” rounded out the top five, earning $6.9 million for the three days and a projected $8.1 million for the four day celebration of all things Oval Office. It has grossed $160.4  million since opening in December.

In limited release, Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next,” a documentary examination of how Europe tackles social problems the bedevil the U.S. such as gun control, prison reform, and school lunches kids can stomach, earned $933,240 from 308 screens. It has grossed just over $1 million following an awards qualifying run.

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