By Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY
Maybe Woody Allen shouldn't forget Paris so soon.
As the 75-year-old director sets his sites on Italy for his next film, his current romantic ode to French literary history is making a lot of American dough.
Midnight in Paris, starring Owen Wilson as a television writer who yearns to cast off his lucrative L.A. career to live a humble existence writing novels in Paris, passed the magical mark Thursday to become Allen's most successful domestic box-office hit in 25 years.
The film, which continued to maintain momentum with $4.5 million over the weekend, has earned $28.6 million to date.
"For a 75-year-old director to be as relevant as a box-office draw in 2011 is truly amazing. This movie is truly resonating," says Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "He has been duking it out with the summer blockbusters since Midnight opened."
Brandon Gray from Boxofficemojo.com notes that the 2011 box-office statistics are inflated because tickets cost more than they did 25 years ago.
Hannah and Her Sisters
(1986) $40.1 million
(1979) $39.9 million
(1977) $38.3 million
Midnight in Paris
(2011) $28.6 million
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
(2008) $23.2 million
Source: Box Office Mojo; lifetime grosses
"Anyone saying Midnight in Paris is Allen's biggest or most successful movie is wrong," Gray says. "It could be his highest-grossing, but that doesn't mean much."
But Michael Barker, co-president of distributor Sony Pictures Classics, points out, "There are different ways to announce that this is a very successful film. All you have to do is see what it's doing at the box office each evening, and then you realize."
Barker's keys to success:
?Remember Paris. "The main character is Paris and all that brings to mind. If you go through the years and see movies with the name Paris in the title, they generally do well," Barker says.
?Let Paris remember the film.Midnight opened to high praise at France's glamorous Cannes Film Festival? a guaranteed love-fest. "For a movie that embraces France like this one does, there's no higher profile for a world premiere," Barker says.
?Keep the love going. After Cannes, the movie opened quickly in the USA to capitalize on the momentum.
?Don't fear pirates.Midnight opened opposite the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Though Johnny Depp's Captain Jack naturally attracted the big thunder, Allen's film was an effective alternative and has played that role opposite other superhero blockbusters.
"We're still watching it grow, and the holiday weekend is going to be special," Barker says. "This is the kind of movie that can play all summer."