The knives were out in Hollywood for GI Joe: Retaliation back in 2012, when Paramount surprised everyone (including director Jon Chu) by announcing it was putting back the release by nine months from 29 June 2012 to the end of March 2013.
At the time there was the usual Hollywood smokescreen to placate the masses. The official line was that the studio needed more time on the 3D conversion, whereas in fact executives were scrambling to reshoot and expand Channing Tatum's role. Tatum's chemistry with Dwayne Johnson is one of the best things about this actually quite decent sequel to a hideous predecessor (2009's GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra) and test audiences last year were upset when Tatu's character died in the opening minutes.
That's understandable. Tatum is a charmer and audiences love him. (So do collaborators, as anyone who saw the late-February love-in with White House Down co-star Jamie Foxx on Jimmy Kimmel's late night talk show will attest.) He'd just scored successive hits with The Vow and 21 Jump Street and you don't kill off a star in the first act.
So Tatum has a bigger role now and the $41.2m (£27m) result over the weekend was the second best ever three-day Easter weekend launch at the North American box office – following Clash of the Titans in 2010 with $61.2m. Factoring in Retaliation's four-day launch that kicked off last Thursday, the film stands at $51.7m and $130m worldwide.
The official line is the movie cost $130m to produce, so let's make it real and boost the figure to $160m and throw in a minimum $80m for marketing and that takes us to $240m. Even at that threshold, the movie is looking good.
The same cannot be said for The Host, a new Stephenie Meyer adaptation starring Saoirse Ronan and distributed by Open Road. It arrived in sixth place on $11m in a disappointing start. Tyler Perry, on the other hand, remains gold dust and his partners at Lionsgate are laughing all the way to the bank. His Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor opened in third place on a rock-solid $22.3m with a very promising ancillary career to come, judging by Perry's track record on TV and DVD.
Meanwhile Harmony Korine's deliciously raunchy Spring Breakers has crossed $10m through arthouse distributor A24. What a way to start for the new distributor. That can only be good news for the specialty market as hundreds of movies jostle for attention in the notoriously treacherous North American market each month.
North American top 10, 29-31 March 2013
1. GI Joe: Retaliation, $41.2m. Total: $51.7m
2. The Croods, $26.5m. Total: $88.6m
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, $22.3m
4. Olympus Has Fallen, $14m. Total: $54.7m
5. Oz the Great and Powerful, $11.6m. Total: $198.3m
6. The Host, $11m
7. The Call, $4.8m. Total: $39.5m
8. Admission, $3.3m. Total: $11.8m
9. Spring Breakers, $2.8m. Total: $10.1m
10. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, $1.3m. Total: $20.6m
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image: © Jessica Diamond