“G.I. Joe” Bypasses Coasts, Aims at Middle America

The decision by the makers of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" to bypass a glossy opening and rely on word of mouth and viral marketing to the military and middle America might lead to a record-breaking opening weekend, analysts said Saturday.

The movie opened Friday with an estimated $22.3 million in ticket sales, an industry analyst said Saturday.

"Based on our early estimates, the film is poised for a record-breaking weekend, with a $60.3 million gross for the three-day to become the third-biggest August opener of all time," said financial analyst Paul Dergarabedian at Hollywood.com.

"Based on Friday estimates, we think we have a real shot of breaking the biggest August, non-sequel record set by `Signs'."

Starring Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans and Dennis Quaid, "G.I. Joe" is an elite military unit that takes on an evil organization led by a notorious arm dealer. The live-action version of the venerable toy franchise was not shown to movie critics in advance, a marketing decision by Paramount Pictures.

Its opening was at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, not in Hollywood, and studio bosses said they knew there was no point in marketing it to elite audiences on the east and west coasts.

"Our starting point for this movie is not Hollywood or Manhattan but rather mid-America," said Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore to the Los Angeles Times.

Ads were bought on such outlets as country-music cable channels and malls in smaller markets, particularly those with military bases.

At Hollywood.com, the marketing effort was hailed for a movie industry that had seen a lackluster July box office take. "This is exactly the shot in the arm we need as we head into the home stretch of the summer movie season," Dergarabedian said.

"This is great news for the industry as 'G.I. Joe' proves to be a hero not only on the big screen, but also at the box office."

The Paramount movie had a $180 million budget.

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