Heavy marketing and appealing stars helped the movie, produced for about $65 million, open toward the upper end of expectations despite harsh reviews from critics.
"Love is in the air and it helped us hit box-office gold," said Jeff Goldstein, the studio's executive vice president of distribution. "This was the date movie for people in the mood for light entertainment."
The Martin Lawrence comedy "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins," from Universal Pictures, opened at No. 2 with an estimated $17.1 million, matching pre-release expectations.
Overall revenue for the weekend was down about 1% from the same period in 2007, according to data tracker Media by Numbers, as box-office results cooled off a bit after this year's hot start.
"Fool's Gold," which reunited its sexy, sunbaked stars for the first time since 2003's "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," and "Roscoe Jenkins" both averaged about $7,000 per theater.
But the Warner Bros. movie benefited from a wider release, with an additional 700-plus theaters. The audience for "Fool's Gold" was 62% female, as expected, and 57% was older than 25.
In CinemaScore surveys, patrons rated the movie a moderate "B-minus," but Goldstein said the calendar set the picture up for a solid run. With Valentine's Day falling on Thursday, the movie will compete for customers on three "date nights" this week and get a boost from the President's Day holiday weekend, he said.
"Roscoe Jenkins," produced for about $35 million, drew crowds that were fairly balanced between males and females, young and old, said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of domestic distribution.
The audience was 32% non-African American, which Rocco took as an indication the movie was "playing beyond its core audience."
She said she was encouraged that business for "Roscoe Jenkins" jumped 51% from Friday to Saturday, versus 22% for "Fool's Gold," and that CinemaScore respondents graded it an "A-minus."
"Hannah Montana," produced for about $7 million, fell sharply after its $31.1-million opening weekend, a Super Bowl record. Still, it continued to benefit from the higher ticket prices exhibitors can charge for 3-D movies, in some cases $15 to $20.
The pop concert movie, whose star has a huge fan base among teenage and younger girls, averaged $15,000 per theater for the weekend -- by far the best in the top 10. It has grossed $53.4 million through 10 days of release.
Most of the 687 theaters showing the movie will keep it for a third week, said Chuck Viane, Disney's distribution president. "Hannah" was originally billed as a one-week-only event.
National Geographic Cinema Ventures, which released the rock concert movie "U2 3D" at 61 Imax theaters Jan. 23, now must wait until Feb. 22 for a broader nationwide expansion to hundreds of non-Imax, digital 3-D theaters. National Geographic originally planned a "national break" this Friday.
Many Imax theaters will switch to Paramount Pictures' fantasy "The Spiderwick Chronicles" on Thursday, when this week's new films come out, while most digital 3-D venues will hang on to "Hannah," so the U2 picture is likely to lose screens this week.
Even so, "U2 3D" is faring well with adult audiences. It averaged a solid $12,000 per theater over the weekend and has grossed $3.1 million to date.
Friday's other nationwide release, "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show," bombed with an estimated $507,000 at 962 theaters, or $527 per location.
The concert movie featuring up-and-coming comedians was produced for about $5 million and distributed by Time Warner Inc.'s Picturehouse.
Among the weekend's limited releases, Focus Features' comedy thriller "In Bruges" fared best, averaging $17,000 per theater at 28 locations.
Along with the family-oriented "The Spiderwick Chronicles," this week's major releases include 20th Century Fox's science-fiction thriller "Jumper," Disney's dance sequel "Step Up 2 the Streets" and Universal's romantic comedy "Definitely, Maybe."
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"Fool's Gold" outperformed another new release, "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins," to lead the industry over the weekend, while "Hannah Montana" fell sharply after its record-setting premiere. The Oscar contender "Juno" stayed in the top 10 for the seventh straight weekend. Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* Movie (studio) 3-day gross (millions) Total (millions) Weeks 1 Fool's Gold $22.0 $22.0 1 (Warner Bros.) 2 Welcome Home 17.1 17.1 1 Roscoe Jenkins (Universal) 3 Hannah Montana 10.5 53.4 2 & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour (Disney) 4 The Eye (Lions 6.6 21.5 2 Gate) 5 Juno (Fox 5.7 117.6 10 Searchlight) 6 27 Dresses (20th 5.7 65.4 4 Century Fox) 7 The Bucket List 5.3 75.1 7 (Warner Bros.) 8 Rambo (Lions 4.1 36.5 3 Gate/Weinstein) 9 Meet the 4.1 33.9 3 Spartans (20th Century Fox) 10 There Will Be 4.1 26.8 7 Blood (Paramount Vantage) *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2007 (in billions) from 2007 $110.0 -1.2% $1.08 +14.9% *--*
*--* Note: A movie may be shown on more than one screen at each venue. Source: Media by Numbers Los Angeles Times *--*