Warner's aptly timed Valentine's Day packed in audiences over Presidents Day weekend. The ensemble romantic comedy surged past its lofty pre-release expectations with a very impressive estimated four-day start of $66.86 million. That represents the largest four-day Presidents Day weekend gross ever, as it easily topped the previous record of $52.02 million set by 2007's Ghost Rider. Furthermore, the $56.41 million 3-day estimated gross for Valentine's Day represented the third largest February debut of all-time (behind 2004's The Passion of the Christ and 2001's Hannibal) and the largest opening weekend of 2010 thus far (topping the $32.79 million start of The Book of Eli). Valentine's Day surged on Sunday with a Valentine's Day inflated daily gross of $23.48 million (up 28 percent from Saturday), though that jump could point towards to large declines in the weeks ahead now that Valentine's Day is over.
Also outpacing expectations was Fox's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The Chris Columbus directed adaptation of the fantasy novel opened in a strong second place with an estimated $38.75 million over the holiday weekend. That represents the sixth largest four-day Presidents Day weekend performance on record, as the film outpaced recent Presidents Day openers such as 2008's Jumper ($32.09 million) and The Spiderwick Chronicles ($24.74 million) and 2007's Bridge to Terabithia ($28.54 million). Percy Jackson was a bit front-loaded towards Friday this weekend for a family film opening over a holiday weekend, which suggests that the film is skewing a bit older than both Spiderwick Chronicles and Bridge to Terabithia did.
There was also plenty of room for Universal's remake of The Wolfman. The R-rated horror film starring Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins opened slightly above expectations with an estimated four-day take of $36.49 million. The Wolfman delivered the seventh largest Presidents Day debut ever, as it opened 8.5 percent ahead of the $33.62 million start of 2005's Constantine. Over the course of the long weekend The Wolfman held up relatively well for a horror film, though that may be more the result of the film skewing older than most horror films rather than an early indicator of strong word of mouth.
Despite the fact that this weekend's three new releases brought in a combined $142.1 million into the marketplace, Fox's Avatar was still able to hold up very well once again this weekend. The record-breaking sci-fi film from director James Cameron continues to benefit greatly from its 3D engagements, as it scored $30.00 million in its ninth weekend of release. That was actually up 20 percent from last weekend (when including last Monday) and brings the film's 60-day gross to $667.61 million. Avatar should continue to hold up well until it loses 3D screens to Disney's Alice in Wonderland on March 5th.
Sony's Dear John was down four-spots and a sharp 42 percent (when including last Monday) from last weekend's first place performance. The modestly budgeted romantic drama starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried grossed $18.80 million and was clearly hurt by Valentine's Day winning the battle for the Valentine's Day audience in a big way. Despite the second weekend slide, Dear John is still performing very well so far with an eleven-day start of $56.68 million, placing it 2 percent behind the pace of last year's He's Just Not That Into You.
Thanks to stronger than estimated Valentine's Day grosses for most films, this weekend's four-day combined box office is on course to come in at $248 million. That will break last year's $220.7 million four-day record for Presidents Day weekend by a comfortable margin.