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'Shutter Island' shows the power of isolation

Sh When Paramount decided to move "Shutter Island" from October to February, some wondered if the studio had a bigger headache on its hands than the migraines felt by Leonardo DiCaprio's character in the film. It didn't help that the pulp-ish trailer elicited some eyebrow-raising among pundits accustomed to more upscale fare from DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese.

But like a short-track speed skater at the Winter Olympics, the studio showed that when it came to releasing a movie, it wasn't how you started but how you finished. The postponement to a date that was relatively open -- and got more open after Lionsgate moved "From Paris With Love" -- proved a prescient move. 

Most box-office experts had estimated that a $35-million opening would be the benchmark for success. As it was, the $40-million figure marked the biggest opening for either Scorsese or DiCaprio, the latter of whom had previously broken the $30-million mark only once, with the conman dramedy "Catch Me If You Can" seven years ago. (Perhaps also propitiously, Paramount delayed the release to a time on the calendar when much of the country was still plunged in the stormy weather seen in the film.)

Although "Shutter Island" didn't come close to the $56.4 million that "Valentine's Day" earned over three days last weekend, it did rival the $41 million of "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail" (2009) for the second-biggest February opening in three years -- and for an R-rated film, no less. (Paramount also earned $9.1 million internationally from an assortment of global territories, including Spain, Russia and the Netherlands.)

Paramount touted its ability to attract a female audience that doesn't typically come out to genre films (though does come out more often than it used to). Indeed, moviegoers were split almost evenly between men and women, as the profile of DiCaprio helped boost the "Shutter Island" numbers among women. The Scorsese pedigree was also likely part of the reason older viewers came out to the thriller in droves, as the numbers were also evenly split between filmgoers older and younger than 25.

But although the film's opening will likely boost the argument that genre movies increasingly appeal to both genders and a range of ages, it might just come down to the calendar.

"The Departed," the blockbuster that marked Scorsese and DiCaprio's most fruitful collaboration, earned only $26 million in its opening weekend, but it was up against two releases aimed at men, the Dane Cook comedy "Employee of the Month" and the reboot of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Neither of those films broke any box-office records, but they did combine to take in nearly $30 million that weekend.

This weekend, on the other hand, there were almost no movies aimed at a young male audience -- the only one playing widely (besides "Avatar") was "The Wolfman," the disappointing revival of the classic monster movie, which didn't even make it to the $10-million mark. (Of course, one could argue that "Shutter Island" not only benefited from "Wolfman's" weak opening but also contributed to it.) And even women didn't turn out in such high numbers to see their preferred vehicle of last weekend, "Valentine's Day," as the film dropped 69%.

"Shutter Island" will face some competition next weekend from Kevin Smith's male-oriented comedy "Cop Out." But with women still coming -- and Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" not opening for another weekend -- expect another strong showing from Scorsese et al. Sometimes it pays to be an island.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "Shutter Island" (Paramount): Opened to $40.2 million domestically and just over $9 million internationally from a smattering of foreign territories over the weekend.

2. "Valentine's Day" (Warner Bros./New Line): Grossed $17.2 million in its second weekend of release with a drop of 69% from last weekend's holiday opening. Domestic total: $88 million.

3. "Avatar" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $16.1 million in its 10th week of a release as the James Cameron movie hits $688 million domestically. A $51-million gross in foreign territories puts its international box office at $1.78 billion.

4. "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): Grossed $15.3 million for a drop of 51% in its second weekend of release. The film earned $23 million overseas for a domestic total of $58.8 million and a foreign total of $67.8 million.

5. "The Wolfman" (Universal/Relativity): $9.8-million gross and a 69% drop, resulting in a domestic total that reaches $50.3 million for a production that cost more than $100 million.

6. "Dear John" (Sony/Relativity): $7.7 million in its third weekend of release for a drop of 52%. Domestic total: $66.3 million.

7. "The Tooth Fairy" (Fox/Walden): $4.5 million as it enters its second month of release. Domestic total: $49.8 million.

8. "Crazy Heart" (Fox Searchlight): $2.9 million in its 10th weekend. Domestic total: $21.5 million.

9. "From Paris With Love" (Lionsgate/Europa): $2.5 million in its third weekend, a 54% drop from an under-performing second weekend. Domestic total: $21.2 million.

10. "Edge of Darkness" (Warner Bros./GK Films): $2.2 million in its fourth weekend, down 54%. Domestic total: $40.3 million.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Mark Ruffalo in "Shutter Island." Credit: Paramount Pictures

Comments () | Archives (11)

Hmm.... wasn't DiCaprio's biggest release a movie that went by the name of... "Titanic"?

Another factor in bringing out viewers, especially the older ones, is that Shutter Island was written by Dennis Lehane, a gifted writer of non-formulaic mysteries. I'll see this movie on that basis alone, and it doesn't hurt that the trailers for once don't give away too much of the story.

This boring movie stunk to high heaven. Save your money.

This movie attracted an audience because there was zero competition this weekend. If going to movies is a weekly habit, then there was nothing else to see except for this completely boring film. If there were any good parts, I may have missed them because of all the people blocking my view of the screen as they got up to leave. They proved to be smarter than me; you know, the dummie who endured this bigscreen pig until the final credits. You can bet there will be little, if any, repeat business for this waste of good film stock.

Just saw "SHUTTER ISLAND" with my wife because of much advertising anticipation, mystery and of course the lure of Leonardo DiCaprio. Despite DiCaprio's always award winning acting, my wife and I, and most of the people around us felt totally let down and not at all happy with the movie. The graphic and bloody shock scenes were totally irrelevent. However, the TRUE underlying plot WHICH WAS NEVER ADVERTISED IN THE TRAILERS was (do I have to say the "H" word) and I hate even commenting about this, was that for some reason the fanatical Jewish writers, producers and owners think that they need to constantly rub the Holocost in the face of movie audiences without any regard. Simply weave it into what would have been an interesting story and pollute the movie. My message to the bitter old men who rightfully should never forget the Holocost but are obsessed with it: "There are better ways to remind the world about the horror of the holocost than to contantly shove it in our faces and bombard us with your ongoing hate campaign based on something that happened over 70 years ago". I felt the same way with the recent farce "Inglorious Bastards" - a total farce based on past hatred that best be laid to rest. Yes the Holocost was a horrible inhuman tragedy of a terrible war, but must I remind you that Christians and Russians suffered even more numberous deaths in WW2 at the hands of the Germans than the Jews (check WW2 history) and they don't constantly shove it down Jewish throats. We don't mind if you make money off us with entertainment and get filthy rich from our money but please be gracious enough to refrain from using the privilege and right to produce our movies as a private podium to air grievances and politics.

Shutter Island was okay, but hardly original. A better version of this basic story was done 30 years ago by William Peter Blatty: The Ninth Configuration. Besides having a much stronger script, it was also funny while at the same time having a very heavy undercurrent.

I'm a Scorcese fan, but to tell you the truth I can't remember his last good film.

Bruno, indeed you're right...Titanic had a bigger opening than Shutter Island and Catch Me if You Can. Maybe Zeitchik should have said that this was DiCaprio's biggest opening for a movie that he carried (as opposed to Titanic, which was more about Kate Winslet's Rose than DiCaprio's Jack, or Catch Me if You Can, which had Tom Hanks sharing the load) as the top billed star.

Bruno, they were referring to Leo and Martin TOGETHER. This is like their sixth film together. Notice the comparison to "The Departed"?

I have no desire to see "Shutter Island" and will wait for it to hit Netflix.

This is shocking news, I didn't find out about it until two weeks ago. I definitely want to see it, the trailer kept me interested. And my friends that have seen it have raved about it. Can't wait to see Leo bring his game.

I saw a screening of Shutter Island last night and I can honestly say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the movie that having Martin Scorsese actually direct the movie wouldn't have cured.

Incredible movie. I can't stop thinking about it. The film is very complex with lots to think about. It was so intense, that I was exhausted by the end. And what an ending!


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