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First look: 'Valentine's Day' dominates as 'Percy Jackson,' 'Wolfman' lag far behind [updated]

February 14, 2010 | 10:42 am

VDay On what's looking to be a huge Presidents Day weekend at the box office, more moviegoers are looking to fall in love than enjoy a good fantasy or scare.

The romantic comedy "Valentine's Day" from Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema unit sold a studio-estimated $52.4 million worth of tickets from Friday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada. The biggest chunk of that total is expected to come on Sunday, as couples go out to see the movie on the movie's titular holiday and generate $19.3 million in box office receipts.

If that prediction bears out and ticket sales are healthy on Presidents Day Monday as well, "Valentine's Day" could be the first movie ever to gross more than $60 million domestically for the four-day weekend. More important, that would be a fantastic start for a film that cost $52 million to produce.

Kids' book adaptation "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" had a fairly good launch, collecting $31.1 million in ticket sales for the three-day weekend. Although it was expected to play mostly to pre-teen boys, meaning matinees would be its strongest shows, ticket sales on Saturday rose a relatively modest 18%, less than the 26% jump for "Valentine's Day."

"Percy Jackson" cost 20th Century Fox, Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners $95 million to produce, meaning word-of-mouth in the coming weeks will be critical for it to end up a success. With kids off of school on Monday, however, the movie should have a strong day and could break $40 million.

Despite being the most expensive picture to open this weekend, "The Wolfman" brought up the box-office rear with a so-so start of $30.6 million from Friday through Sunday. Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent a hefty $150 million to produce the film, according to one person close to the remake of the 1950s monster movie. The studio said the final cost was $110 million including foreign tax credits.

Like "Percy," it will need a strong performance in the coming weeks, as well as healthy overseas ticket sales, to turn a profit given its hefty budget.

[Update, 1:50 p.m.: However, "Valentine's Day" was the biggest new movie overseas this weekend as well, collecting $30.4 million in 52 markets. "Percy Jackson took in $28 million in 63 territories, while "The Wolfman" generated $21 million from 37 foreign markets.]

Given the competition, it's impressive that none of the three new movies debuting nationwide flopped. Total weekend receipts for all films were $193 million, according to That's roughly in line, accounting for ticket price inflation, with a total of $188 million on the same weekend last year.

Fox Searchlight also debuted Bollywood movie "My Name is Khan," featuring Indian star Shah Rukh Khan, at 120 theaters. Aimed at Indian-American crowds, the movie generated a healthy $1.86 million, or $15,500 per theater.

Last weekend's surprise hit "Dear John" had a typical second weekend decline of 50%, bringing total domestic ticket sales for the low-cost tearjerker after 10 days to a strong $53.2 million.

--Ben Fritz

Photo: Patrick Dempsey and Jennifer Garner in "Valentine's Day." Credit: Ron Batzdorff / Warner Bros.