Paul Blart: Number One

Kevin James comedy hits US top spot

Kevin James: Movie Star.

That’s the conclusion we’re drawing from the astonishing Stateside performance of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the first film to feature the King Of Queens star in the lead role. It pulled in $39 million over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend – the second-highest gross in the holiday’s history, following Cloverfield’s $46.1 million haul from last year.

Despite reviews that were, at best, mixed, Paul Blart: Mall Cop pulled in the punters and then some, showing that after two big hits in which he took supporting roles – Hitch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry – audiences were more than happy to see James hog the spotlight as a hapless mall security guard who has to thwart a group of robbers, Die Hard-style.

The movie took in $33 million over the three-day weekend, making it one of the highest non-Adam Sandler-based performers for Happy Madison, Sandler’s production company. And there’s every chance that, if Blart shows legs and heads toward the hundred million dollar mark, that a franchise may be born.

It was a fairly big weekend at the US box office, truth be told, with five films notching up grosses of $20 million and over.

Clint Eastwood, showing that age has not diminished his box office appeal, is continuing to kick ass and take names with Gran Torino. In its sixth week, but second week of wide release, the Oscar contender came in second with an impressive $26 million over four days, giving it $77 million in total. $100 million is assured – and it has a really good shot at becoming Clint’s highest grosser of all time, as either director or actor (unadjusted for inflation, of course). Quick – someone greenlight The Dark Knight Returns!

Three newcomers also made their presence known in the Top 10. My Bloody Valentine 3D, helped by an aggressive trailer campaign, surprisingly decent reviews and the promise of blood, gore and nudity COMING ATCHA LIKE CLEOPATRA scared up an estimated $24.2 million for a third-place finish.

That was just ahead of Notorious, the biopic of the gangsta rapper, Notorious B.I.G., which pulled in $24 million. That might change when the final figures are confirmed. And in fifth place was the other new release, the kiddie comedy Hotel For Dogs, which collared an estimated $22.5 million.

Last week’s number two movie, Bride Wars, is quickly being put out of audiences’ misery, it seems. The Anne Hathaway-Kate Hudson comedy pulled in just $14 million over the four-day weekend, and now has $39 million after two weeks.

There were two big climbers within the top 10 this week, with the Daniel Craig WWII thriller, Defiance, grossing $10 million in its first expansion following a limited release. That may not sound like much, but it was an increase of an astonishing 15,593% over last weekend’s take. But with a screen average of just under $6,000, it seems unlikely that the Edward Zwick-directed movie will pull up any financial trees, leaving Craig still searching for a first big hit outside of Bond.

The other big climber was Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, fresh from its triumph at the Golden Globes. It rose 89% from last week, grossing around $7 million, and so far has $43 million in the bank. Not bad at all – expect that to go up further when the Oscar nominations are announced later this week.

Next weekend sees a number of interesting additions to the box office landscape. The big releases are the kids’ fantasy Inkheart, and the Kate Beckinsale-free Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans, neither of which will trouble the record books. Interestingly, the latter stars Michael Sheen, whose Oscar-bothering Frost/Nixon will expand to 800 theatres, as will Sam Mendes Leo/Kate reunion, Revolutionary Road.

But we’re keeping our eye on a couple of smaller releases – on just five screens, The Weinstein Co. will finally let John Madden’s Elmore Leonard adaptation, Killshot see the light of day, some three years after it was completed. With a cracking cast – Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Thomas Jane – we’re still not sure why this movie was dumped so ignominiously. Can it really be that bad? We’re about to find out.

Then on 80 screens comes the Vikings/Aliens/Jesus combo, Outlander, in which Jim Caviezel battles a nasty alien dragon type thing. But we’re particularly keen to see how a small, unheralded independent movie called The Dark Knight does on its second time around. Can Chris Nolan’s superhero classic nab the three million dollars it needs to become just the fourth movie in history to crest the billion dollar mark? Find out this time next week – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!