Box Office Breakdown: Wolverine Cuts the Competition to Ribbons

It turns out all the consternation over whether bootlegged versions of X-Men Origins: Wolverine would hurt the film’s bottom line was a bit unwarranted. Hugh Jackman and his adamantium claws tore up the box office over the weekend as Wolverine grossed an estimated $87 million to pace the field and get summer started off on the right foot. Things weren’t so happy in the Matthew McConaughey household, however: despite opening in second place, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past pulled in a lackluster $15.3 million. As we do each Monday, here’s a breakdown of the top five at the box office.

1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine: $87 million ($87 million total)

For a movie with such negative pre-release buzz, terrible reviews and what amounted to a remarkably stiff ad campaign, an $87 million opening for X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a clear success. However, before we get too excited, consider that Wolverine opened to $15 million less than X-Men: The Last Stand did in 2006 and roughly $12 million less than Iron Man did during the same calendar weekend last year. Still, this is the biggest opening, thus far, of 2009, and unless the word of mouth is just horrendous, X-Men Origins: Wolverine will probably wind up grossing over $200 million. And based on the audience we saw it with—they actually applauded at the end!—we think that final number is more than possible. Lest we forget, there aren’t any other straight-up superhero movies coming out this summer. Wolverine has the comic book demographic all to itself.

2. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: $15.3 million ($15.3 million total)

To find a Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy with such a small start, you’d have to go all the way back to 2001 when The Wedding Planner opened in January of that year with $13.5 million. His last three shirtless romps—How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Failure to Launch and Fool’s Gold—all opened over $20 million. So, what went wrong? There is the little matter of positioning—the previous romantic dalliances opened during the winter months—but, more important, are the co-stars. Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker are reliable box office draws … Jennifer Garner is not. For an actress that is so beloved (and deservedly so), Ms. Garner hasn’t really capitalized on her goodwill. Does she want to be an action star, like Linda Hamilton, or, America’s sweetheart, like Julia Roberts? Until she figures it out, expect more box office disappointment.

3. Obsessed: $12.2 million ($47 million total)

We’ll say this for Obsessed: it held up remarkably well, dropping “only” 57 percent from last weekend’s No. 1 bow. (We figured on this thing falling at least 65 percent.) Apparently audiences love the idea of seeing Beyoncé and Ali Larter go all Flavor of Love on each other, and, honestly, who can blame them? Someone has to wipe that smug look off Ms. Larter’s face, so who better than Beyoncé.

4. 17 Again: $6.4 million ($48.5 million total)

If you’re looking for a metric to judge Zac Efron’s future staying power, take a peak at the theater counts. In its third weekend, 17 Again, down 45 percent from last week, still showed in more theaters than Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Even theater owners are hip to the fact that girls love their Efron.

5. Monsters vs. Aliens: $5.8 million ($182.4 million total)

The current titleholder of “biggest box office hit of the year,” Monsters vs. Aliens narrowly beat out The Soloist ($5.6 million/$18.1 million total) to claim the fifth spot over the weekend. With Pixar’s Up not coming until the end of the month, we full expect Monsters vs. Aliens to cruise past $200 million. Somewhere Jeffrey Katzenberg just did another fist pump.

Box Office Breakdown: Wolverine Cuts the Competition to Ribbons