Will Smith usually brings audiences in at gunpoint. This time, he did it with hugs and kisses.
Starring in his first romantic comedy, the action hero scored a No. 1 debut with “Hitch,” which took in $45.3 million over Valentine’s Day weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.
“Clearly, Will Smith is the man,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. “He can open any kind of movie. He has multi-genre appeal.”
The previous weekend’s top movie, the horror tale “Boogeyman,” fell to second place with $10.8 million, lifting its 10-day total to $33.3 million.
The weekend’s other new wide release, the animated family tale “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie,” opened at No. 5 with $6 million.
Sony Pictures had the weekend’s top three movies with “Hitch,” “Boogeyman” and “Are We There Yet?”, which was No. 3 at $8.5 million.
“Hitch” stars Smith as a Manhattan “date doctor” who helps hopeless men win the hearts of their dream women but has romantic troubles when he meets his own soul mate (Eva Mendes).
It was the fifth-straight No. 1 debut for Smith, following “Shark Tale,” “I, Robot,” “Bad Boys II” and “Men in Black II.” Those movies all opened in the $46 million to $52 million range.
“Will Smith certainly delivers, doesn’t he?” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s head of distribution. “He’s one of those rare stars that just appeals to everyone, men, women and children. There’s no doubt he’s somewhat of a king of action, but he is every bit as good in comedy.”
The $6 million debut for “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” was on par with distributor Disney’s last Winnie the Pooh cartoon, 2003’s “Piglet’s Big Movie,” which opened with $6.1 million, though below the debut of the Pooh adventure “The Tigger Movie,” which premiered with $9.4 million in 2000.
Disney spokesman Dennis Rice said the Pooh flicks are made cheaply enough that it will turn a solid profit once television and home-video revenues roll in.
Three key contenders for the Feb. 27 Academy Awards remained in the top 10. The boxing drama “Million Dollar Baby” was No. 4 with $7.6 million, raising its total domestic gross to $45.1 million.
The buddy tale “Sideways” took in $4.75 million to finish in eighth place, lifting its total to $53.1 million. The Howard Hughes epic was ninth with $4.6 million, pushing its domestic haul to $82.3 million.
Two movies opened solidly in limited release. “Bride & Prejudice,” a romance that updates Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” to a modern-day Bollywood musical in India, took in $388,076 in 32 theaters. The film is directed by Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”).
The documentary “Inside Deep Throat” debuted solidly with $91,000 in 12 theaters. Produced by Brian Grazer (“A Beautiful Mind”), the NC-17-rated film examines the cultural impact of the 1972 porn blockbuster “Deep Throat.”