Definitely Maybe
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V-day box office kisses and disses

Definitely Maybe
By Deborah Netburn, Times Staff Writer

The rom-com, as we sort of like to call the romantic comedies that have been flooding our theaters lately, has traditionally enjoyed a boost when coming out in time for Valentine’s Day.

This year the box-office pundits are saying “Fool’s Gold” took the weekend despite terrible reviews (only 10 fresh tomatoes compared with 89 rotten ones on RottenTomatoes.com) because of its proximity to the holiday, and “Definitely, Maybe,” coming out on the 14th, is hoping to capitalize in the same way.

But the trick of using Valentine’s Day to lure lovers (and loners) to the theaters isn’t always successful. The total box-office take for “Mr. Wrong” (1996) was still a dismal $12.8 million, despite coming out just two days after the holiday. On the other hand, it’s possible “Hitch” (2005) made $179 million because it opened three days before. (Or maybe that was just the unstoppable Will Smith?)

How did other romantic movies released in February fare? Here’s our V-Day scorecard. (Andrew Schwartz / Universal Pictures)
Mr. Wrong
“Mr. Wrong”

Release date: Feb. 16, 1996

Box-office gross: $12.8 million

Valentine winner? Was there really ever a time when putting Ellen DeGeneres in a romantic comedy seemed like a good idea? Even one where the perfect guy turns out to be a schizo? (E.J. Camp)
Hitch
“Hitch”

Release date: Feb. 11, 2005

Box-office gross: $179.5 million

Valentine winner? Big time! This was the third-highest-grossing romantic comedy ever. Will Smith is box-office magic. (Barry Wetcher / Columbia Pictures)
50 First Dates
“50 First Dates”

Release date: Feb. 13, 2004

Box-office gross: $39.8 million

Valentine winner? “Winner” is a bit strong since this film didn’t do half what “The Wedding Singer” -- an earlier pairing of Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler as the romantic leads -- did. But this was a solid B+ performance. (Darren Michaels / Revolution Studios)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”

Release date: Feb. 7, 2003

Box-office gross: $105.8 million

Valentine winner? The studio couldn’t have hoped for more. This was the film that proved Kate Hudson could carry a movie, and it’s why we have “Fool’s Gold” this year. (Michael Gibson / Paramount Pictures)
Music and Lyrics
“Music and Lyrics”

Release date: Feb. 14, 2007

Box-office gross: $50.5 million

Valentine winner? Absolutely: $50 million might not blow anyone away if this was a summer action film, but it’s an impressive take for a romantic comedy. Credit the pairing of rom-com dynamos Drew Barrymore (a Valentine’s Day-release repeat offender) and Hugh Grant. (Gene Page / Warner Bros.)
The Wedding Date
“The Wedding Date”

Release date: Feb. 14, 2005

Box-office gross: $31.7 million

Valentine winner? We’re going to posit that this movie actually did get help from the Valentine’s Day release date. America may have loved Debra Messing as Grace, but they don’t seem to want to watch her on the big screen. The $31.7-million gross was about as well as this was going to do. (Eugene Adebari / Universal Studios)
The Beautician and the Beast
“The Beautician and the Beast”

Release Date: Feb. 7, 1997

Box Office Gross: $11.5 million

Valentine Winner? There was nothing that could save this movie starring what was a then sort of popular Fran Drescher, not the week before Valentine’s Day release date, not nothing. (Claudette Barius)
The Wedding Singer
“The Wedding Singer”

Release date: Feb. 13, 1998

Box-office gross: $80.2 million

Valentine winner? Yes, yes, yes! In fact, it was the perfect storm: Critics loved it, the public went to see it, and it had the extra push of holiday timing to make for Valentine’s Day magic. (K. Wright / New Line)
Norbit
“Norbit”

Release date: Feb. 9, 2007

Box-office gross: $95.6 million

Valentine winner? What can we say except yes? Eddie Murphy dressed up as a super-fat woman and a super-nerdy guy and a stereotype of an old Chinese dude apparently sells tickets. You can’t argue with that gross. (Bruce McBroom / Paramount Pictures)
Blast From the Past
“Blast From the Past”

Release date: Feb. 12, 1999

Box-office gross: $26.5 million

Valentine winner? Not a winner but not a loser, either. Neither Alicia Silverstone nor co-star Brendan Fraser could quite make their big-screen careers work after some early successes, but we remember liking the idea of this movie about a guy who had been in a fallout shelter for most of his life. (Peter Sorel / New Line Cinema)
Reality Bites
“Reality Bites”

Release date: Feb. 18, 1994

Box-office gross: $20.9 million

Valentine winner? Not really. And we may be cheating putting this in here since it came out four days after Valentine’. But isn’t that so ’90s? Putting your romantic comedy out AFTER the big day? (Van Redin)
Date Movie
“Date Movie”

Release date: Feb. 17, 2006

Box-office gross: $48.5 million

Valentine winner? These parody mash-up movies seem to do well whenever they’re released (especially considering their small budgets), so yes, it did well. Did it need the Valentine’s Day hook? Probably not. (Myles Aronowitz / 20th Century Fox)
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