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First look: 'G.I. Joe' starts solidly, but it's no 'Star Trek'

August 9, 2009 |  8:58 am


It looks like Paramount Pictures has its third successful franchise of the summer, though it's not as popular as the other two.

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" earned $56.2 million on its opening weekend, according to studio estimates. That's on the high end of what pre-release audience polling had indicated and a healthy, if not great, start given the movie's hefty $175-million production budget.

"Star Trek," Paramount's other 2009 revival of a dormant brand on the big screen, did much better, earning $75.2 million on its opening weekend. And its production budget was a bit lower, at $140 million.

It looked on Friday as though "G.I. Joe" would gross closer to $60 million, but word of mouth doesn't appear to have been as strong as the studio had hoped, despite the B+ that audiences gave the film, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Ticket sales declined 18% from Friday to Saturday, an indication that the movie won't play too long at the box office. "Star Trek," by contrast, saw its gross increase from Friday to Saturday.

Nonetheless, the opening for "G.I. Joe" marks a third solid opening in what has been a very good summer for Paramount with "Trek" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."

One good sign for "G.I. Joe": The audience wasn't quite as young and male as early surveys had indicated. Sixty percent of moviegoers were male, and 50% were younger than 25.

Estimated grosses from the 31 foreign countries where Paramount opened the film weren't immediately available this morning but likely added another $30 million to $40 million to its total.

"Julie & Julia," the weekend's other major release, appears to have much better audience buzz, as ticket sales increased about 17% from Friday to Saturday, and the film ended up earning $20.1 million. That's better than had appeared likely given the movie's Friday start and a very good sign for the box office longevity of the Sony Pictures release. Its audience was 67% female and 64% over 35, a demographic that doesn't go out to the movies too often.

"A Perfect Getaway," which Universal distributed for Relativity Media-owned Rogue Pictures, grossed $5.8 million. The low opening was expected and is decent given the film's $14-million production budget.

Universal's hopes that the second weekend would help make up for a mediocre opening for "Funny People" were dashed as the movie's grosses plummeted 65% to $7.9 million. That's likely due to a combination of poor word of mouth and male audiences, who liked "Funny People" best, flocking to "G.I. Joe." Universal split the $75-million production budget of "Funny People" with Sony Pictures and Relativity Media.

Update (Aug. 9, 3:05 PM): "G.I. Joe" grossed $44 million overseas. Check out a more detailed analysis of the weekend box office here.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." Credit: Paramount Pictures