April 12, 2010 | 4:29 pm
As readers with an interest in the business side of Hollywood know, Levy has owned one of commercial filmmaking's more impressive streaks. Coming into this weekend, the "Date Night" director had seen his last five films win the top spot at the weekend box office, a streak that dates back to 2003 and includes one of the more potent comedy franchises around, "Night at the Museum."
The streak was cited enviously by filmmakers not named Shawn Levy and touted proudly by executives at companies that released his films (for the last few pictures, that's been Fox, where Levy and his production company have a deal). The streak, critics and supporters agreed, suggested that Levy was attuned to the American zeitgeist in a way that few directors were. In a profile last week, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed that the run was enough to provide Levy "grounds for sainthood" in Hollywood.
The streak appeared to continue this weekend, when Fox estimated that "Date Night" would earn $27.1 million, good enough for No. 1 over the holdover "Clash of the Titans," which grossed $26.9 million. Levy, it appeared, now had six straight No. 1s.
But several rival studios privately doubted Fox's number. And today it turns out they were right. According to The Times' box office guru Ben Fritz, Fox cut themselves a rather generous break in its estimates. "Date Night" in fact grossed $25.2 million -- still solid for a mid-budget comedy, but a number that's nearly $2 million lower than the original estimates, which usually miss by a few hundred thousand dollars at the most.
Needless to say, the final "Date Night" total was not good enough for No.1, a fact that provides grist for rival studio executives to ask whether Fox had been so generous because it wanted to allow Levy's streak to live on, if only for one more (press-heavy) day.
But as the streak ends, it's also fair to ask what it meant in the first place.