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February 8, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Record numbers of Super Bowl viewers translated to fewer viewers in movie theaters. Attendance was even scantier than the low estimates issued by the studios on Sunday. The No. 1 film for the weekend, The Roommate, debuted with just $15 million, and the No. 2 film, Sanctum, opened with just $9.4 million, despite having 3D premium pricing going for it. (In this case, the 3D premium may have acted as a deterrent.) But it wasn’t just the Super Bowl that kept moviegoers away — last year, Dear John opened with $30.5 million and the overall box office for Super Bowl weekend was nearly 25 percent higher than this year’s — the quality of the films may also been a put-off. Indeed, The Roommate, which was not screened in advance for critics, was not even reviewed by most of them even after it opened. (Ordinarily when a studio opts not to give critics an advance look, they stand in line with regular theater patrons when the movie opens and write their reviews for publication on Saturday.) Washington Post writer Jen Chaney said facetiously that Sony’s decision to bypass critics “totally paid off” and will encourage studios “to let lousy films avoid being reviewed in advance, because, hey, they make money anyway.” Only two major newspapers bothered to assign writers to review the film — and they heaped scorn on it. Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times wrote that it substitutes “sex for suspense and pop music for ideas,” Director Christian E. Christiansen, she continued, “succeeds only in conjuring monotony.” And Mark Olsen in the Los Angeles Times called it, “a waste all around of young, attractive actresses, Los Angeles locations and the time of anyone unlucky enough to sit through it.”

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. The Roommate, Sony, $15,002,635, (New); 2. Sanctum, Universal, $9,447,930, (New); 3. No Strings Attached, Paramount, $8,004,834, 3 Wks. ($51,392,705); 4. The King’s Speech, Weinstein Co. $7,712,353, 11 Wks. ($83,527,544); 5. The Green Hornet, Sony, $5,966,229, 4 Wks. ($87,088,622); 6. The Rite, Warner Bros., $5,589,311, 2 Wks. ($23,701,534); 7. The Mechanic, CBS Films, $5,295,253, 2 Wks. ($20,005,519); 8. True Grit, Paramount, $4,640,139, 7 Wks. ($154,902,541); 9. Black Swan, Fox Searchlight, $3,373,851, 10 Wks. ($95,861,708); 10. The Dilemma, Universal, $3,282,555, 4 Wks. ($45,574,025).