The Break-Up: Melissa Moseley
June 04, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Oh me, oh my! Vaughniston’s The Break-Up opened with $38.1 million this weekend, which boosted the dark-ish romantic comedy into first place, past last week’s champ, X-Men: The Last Stand. This is a major, major surprise. If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out what the wiseguys over at Variety said today: ”In a weekend that shocked most industryites, Jen and Vince slayed the mutants… grossing a boffo $38.1 million.” Now, I’m not exactly sure what an industryite is or what boffo means (what dictionary do these dudes use, anyway?), but I can recognize a collective gasp when I hear one. In fact, even though I live a good 10 miles from Hollywood, I think that’s the noise that woke me up this morning. Serves me right for sleeping with my windows open.

Simply put, nobody was expecting this. Nobody. I mean, the folks at Universal may have been hoping for it, but all the signs pointed to a much softer premiere. TB-U went into the weekend with poor reviews, stiff holdover competition from X-M:TLS, The Da Vinci Code, and Over the Hedge, and a heavy dose of gossip fatigue. Even the most successful romantic comedies don’t have huge openings. Folks usually don’t like to go to the multiplex to watch people arguing for nearly two hours. The movie’s CinemaScore rating from audiences was a lowly C+, a passing mark in school but almost never in theaters. And so on. Hey, what can I say? I was fooled. And I clearly should have listened to my mom when she said to me, ”I guess couples are looking for a movie they can both go see.” (Smart lady, Mom.) Indeed, if there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s to never underestimate the power of counterprogramming. TB-U was the only movie of its kind in the marketplace, and its audience — nearly two-thirds of whom were over the age of 25, says CinemaScore — responded. (All that chatter over the stars’ personal lives no doubt helped, too.) According to my good buddy John at box office tracking firm Nielsen EDI, the film’s first-weekend figure is the third-best ever among romantic comedies (only Hitch and 50 First Dates did better), it’s the best of Vince Vaughn’s career as a leading actor (passing Wedding Crashers‘ $33.9 mil last summer), and it made for a stong per-screen average of $12,395. What’s more, by next weekend, the movie will have recouped its $50 mil production budget.

Of course, TB-U‘s startling rise is also linked to X-M:TLS‘ startling fall. Fox’s Marvel comic book adaptation started off super strong last weekend, with $102.8 mil over three days, only to drop 66.6 percent to come in at No. 2 this time around, with $34.4 mil. Yipes! Nevertheless, at this rate, the movie is almost certain to pass X2‘s $214.9 mil domestic take. Over the Hedge continued to sport some of the year’s best legs, as it crept into third place with $20.6 mil, a mere 24 percent decline in its third weekend. DreamWorks’ CG kiddie flick also became the fifth 2006 release to pass the $100 mil mark, and it continues to go strong at $112.4 mil, just in time to compete with Cars next Friday. Downshifting in its third weekend was TDVC, which earned $19.3 mil at No. 4; its overall take stands at $172.7 mil domestically — and nearly $600 mil worldwide. And Mission: Impossible 3 rounded out the top five with $4.7 mil, bringing its domsestic total to a mediocre $122.7 mil.

Among smaller releases, Magnolia’s District B-13 and Lionsgate’s Peaceful Warrior were non-factors on a handful of screens. Meanwhile, for the second straight weekend, the big news in indie land was An Inconvenient Truth‘s incredibly impressive take. Paramount Classics expanded the Al Gore global warming documentary to 77 venues, where it earned $1.3 mil. That made for a $17,292 average, which put the film at No. 9, and can really only be described in one word: boffo.

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