There's nothing like an enraged diva Beyoncé Knowles giving a head butt to the psychopathic blonde who's trying to kill her and steal her husband to bring out the crowds on a spring weekend. Enough customers were transfixed by the fatal-distraction drama Obsessed to place it at the top of the weekend's box-office chart with a surprisingly robust $28.5 million, according to early studio estimates. The PG-13 thriller more than doubled the take of its nearest competitor, 17 Again, and earned nearly as much over the weekend as the total of the three other movies that opened in wide release. It is the all-time highest grosser (surpassing the 2004 Lindsay LohanTina Fey comedy Mean Girls) for the last weekend in April, when traditionally hardly anyone goes to the movies.
For the film industry, April is the cruelest month, a late Lent before the big "summer" film feast begins in early May. (This year's Maytime blockbuster hopefuls: Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Terminator Salvation and Night at the Museum; and those are just the major sequels, prequels and remakes.) The last weekend in April is a kind of movie doggie day care, where Hollywood stashes its unwanted mutts until they can be unleashed on DVD. Given the low-rent release date of Obsessed, and Sony Screen Gems' refusal to screen it for critics, industry analysts predicted an opening weekend of $15-17 million. Yet the movie, which pairs Knowles with The Wire's Idris Elba as her victimized husband, transcended the reliable African-American constituency and lured a broad base of teens and young couples. It is, after all, the perfect creep-out date movie.
That left the guys who couldn't get dates no option but to see Fighting, which is essentially Fight Club without Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, David Fincher or any pretense of artistry or ambiguity. Fighting is to Fight Club what its star Channing Tatum's one previous hit, the 2006 Step Up, was to every poor-boy-with-a-dream dance movie before it, from Saturday Night Fever to Save the Last Dance which is to say, a worn retread, but with more bare-knuckle brawls. No matter: young guys' collective movie memory can be counted in the months; or maybe, like most everyone, they just like to see the same stories with different faces. Exceeding most analysts' expectations, Fighting pulled in $11.4 million.
In the March of the Penguins category of adorable documentary, Disney offered Earth, a cut-down and cuted-up version of the 2006 BBC series Planet Earth. Mixing and milking the week's two do-gooder events Earth Day and Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day Disney fashioned its own Take Your Kid to a Movie Called Earth Day and harvested a very green $4 million on its Wednesday opening. That 24-hr. gesture must have exhausted American moviegoers' impulse to save the planet, for in the next four days, including the weekend, Earth didn't come near the daily $4 million mark. It will conclude the Friday-to-Sunday session with $8.6 million, not bad for documentary, but far less than Obsessed grossed on Friday alone.
Yet that was enough to keep Earth neck-and-neck with the weekend's prestige drama debut, the true-life male weepie The Soloist, which grossed $9.7 million. Retelling the story (already aired on 60 Minutes) of a homeless, schizophrenic cellist befriended by a Los Angeles Times columnist, it's the sort of serioso uplifter that usually gets released in December and garners major awards. Its stars have been in aisle seats on Oscar Night: Jamie Foxx as the musician, Robert Downey, Jr., as the newspaperman. But The Soloist was pulled from a late-year release, to be dumped in the no-man's-land of late April. And though the film nabbed respectful reviews, audiences were quick to realize it was neither Iron Man nor Ray. Directed by Joe Wright, who did the posh Brit drama Atonement, the new film looks unlikely to match Atonement's $51 million domestic take, let alone the $78 million it made abroad.