Ah, Valentine’s Day. The finest holiday that corporate institutions could devise. Jewelers, florists and candy-makers the world over revel in sales as people try to romance each other with all the things that are completely irrelevant to a successful relationship. But the classic tradition of dinner and a movie is still a Valentine’s Day tradition for many couples, and as with any holiday, some movies do better than others. So which Valentine’s Day weekend openings were history's hottest tickets? You might just be surprised. Take a look and update your Netflix queue for this weekend’s romantic (or not so romantic) entertainment.
Is it any surprise that this romantic comedy is right on top? Director Andy Tennant has carved out a career around lovey-dovey stories (he’s the guy behind Sweet Home Alabama and Ever After) but he struck gold when he unleashed Will Smith and Kevin James for Valentine’s Day weekend in 2005, raking in over $43 million. Even when you consider ticket price inflation, nothing in the last thirty years has done as well, making it the hottest ticket movie date ever for the world’s most commercially romantic holiday.
Really? Sure, why not. I mean, did you see the movie’s posters? Opening on Valentine’s Day 2003, Daredevil held the promise of then-hunky Ben Affleck in muscular skin tight hero’s garb. No doubt that boyfriends weren’t too hard to convince, what with the lovely Jennifer Garner in midriff black leather. OK, so this was totally a Valentine for comic book nerds, but they still had a chance to share their love of action comic flicks. With a $40 million opening weekend they turned it into one of February’s biggest-ever openings.
Amnesia love was a new twist for the romantic comedy genre (Regarding Henry had it covered in the drama department). Adam Sandler wisely released 50 First Dates Valentine’s weekend in 2004. Getting couples to the theater was a piece of cake since Sandler and his co-star Drew Barrymore had proven their quirky romantic chemistry before in the The Wedding Singer (which also made this list, check out below!). Romantic nights out turned the movie’s first weekend into a $39 million success.
The question really should have been, “Why on earth are you remaking Friday the 13th?” But in a brilliantly bizarre move the studio redirected everyone’s attention by setting a nonsense release date and turning the question to “Why on earth are you releasing a non-romantic horror movie on Valentine’s Day?”. Audiences didn’t seem to mind though, and the movie was the hottest ticket for the most romantic weekend of 2009, raking in over $40 million. Hey, horror fans need date nights too, right?
Jumper wasn’t particularly romantic. It wasn’t particularly good either. Maybe the double whammy of Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell caught the eye of teenage girls who then dragged along the poor guys who had finally gotten up the courage to ask them out for dinner and movie. Whatever the reason, it banked solid sales when it opened one day early on Valentine’s Day in 2008 and then went on to be the top movie of the weekend with $27 million. Never mind that the far more romantic Definitely, Maybe also opened that weekend. It didn’t even break the $10 million mark.
Do Wayne and Garth count as a bromance? Is a clingy psycho girlfriend who still gets you gifts even though you broke up two months ago romantic? Wayne’s World hit theaters on Valentine’s Day 1992 and devastated the competition. At $18 million ($33 million in today’s box office dollars) it was the highest grossing Valentine opening to date and would remain there until The Wedding Singer struck in 1998. Not only that, Wayne and Garth right along with their dream women would sit at the top of the box office for another month. Party on, Wayne and Garth. Party on!
Could there be anything more romantic than a man who is forced to live the same day over and over and over until he resolves his selfish tendencies so that he can truly fall in love with a woman for all the right reasons? Perhaps that’s the reason why the movie wasn’t released on its namesake day and was instead held back for a couple of weeks to roll in for Valentine’s weekend. In today’s dollars it banked a solid $26 million making it one of the most popular romantic comedies to hit theaters for the holiday.
Adam Sandler had done comedy, but his first real go at playing the romantic comedy lead was The Wedding Singer in 1998. Its debut on Valentine’s weekend became the highest grossing for the holiday to date with $18 million (nearly $31 million by today’s ticket prices). But most importantly, it introduced the world to one of the quirkiest but still perfect pairings: Sandler and Barrymore. And, of course, it also gave a new generation its defining love song. No, not the Grandma Rap.
Middle aged people can fall in love too. Even if it takes tragedy and ocean flotsam to make it happen. Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn sorted all of that out when their romantic drama hit screens Valentine’s weekend in 1999. Romantic comedies are the norm on the holiday, but dramas are a little harder to come by. With or without inflation, Message In A Bottle is still the top grossing Valentine's weekend non-comedy romance flick on the books.
It didn’t open on Valentine’s Day weekend, but the fact that a movie which was already in its ninth weekend banked $46 million (with inflation) thanks to a boost from the romantic holiday deserves an honorable mention. Titanic’s love story overrode its tragic ending and lovers made their way to the theater to watch Jack and Rose meet, fall in love, and then go down with the ship.
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