MovieMantz Rantz: ‘Break-Up’ Surprise (June 5, 2006)

A few days ago, every studio exec in town predicted that last week’s box office champ, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” would be number one again with around $40 million, while “The Break-Up,” starring real-life lovebirds Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, would open in a distant second with around $25 million.

Well, when it comes to predicting the box office, I can only quote the great screenwriter William Goldman — “nobody knows anything!”

In a big surprise, “The Break-Up” opened number one with a huge $38 million, making it the biggest summer opening ever for a romantic comedy. (Personally, I thought “The Break-Up” was an unpleasant cinematic experience that was neither romantic nor a comedy, but I digress.)

And after breaking box office records last week, the third “X-Men” took a beating, falling a steep 67% to second place with almost $35 million — the biggest 2nd week drop ever for a Memorial Weekend opening. But it’s still doing gangbusters overseas, bringing its impressive worldwide total to more than $310 million.

But maybe the success of “The Break-Up” shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, given that its co-stars happen to be dating in real life. After all, it worked for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, when “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” opened number one last June with $50 million.

Now that really wasn’t a surprise, since “Smith” was already infamous for allegedly breaking up Pitt and Aniston, and summer action movies typically open big anyway.

But it just goes to show you that if co-stars are going to hook up, they should keep their romance to themselves. To this day, Vaughn and Aniston refuse to admit that they’re an item, while last year, Pitt and Jolie went so far as to have members of the junketing press sign a waiver ensuring that no questions would be asked about their personal lives.

The mysterious nature about both couples didn’t hurt their films at the box office, as it might have for other on-screen couples who weren’t as subtle about their off-screen romance. Remember “Gigli”? This Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez stinker opened with just $3.7 million in the summer of 2003 (final domestic gross: $5.7 million), while their follow-up, 2004’s “Jersey Girl” (in which Lopez had a smaller role) opened with $8.3 million in March of 2004 before eventually grossing $25.3 million.

Hopefully, future acting couples will learn from the precedent set by “Vaughniston” and “Brangelina” — keep it to yourself, and leave ‘em hungry for more. It’s good for the box office!

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