Weekend Box Office (April 3 - 5, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The turbo-charged racing sequel Fast & Furious crushed its competitors and blew away all industry expectations with a launch that shattered the April opening weekend box office record. And with the animated hit Monsters vs. Aliens still doing solid business in its second frame, the overall marketplace powered its way to the highest-grossing April session ever. Together, the two juggernauts grossed more this weekend than the entire marketplace did during this same frame in 2008 continuing a scorching hot year for movie ticket sales.

Universal won first place by an enormous margin with the heavily-hyped Fast & Furious which bowed to $71M from 3,461 theaters for an eye-popping $20,500 average. It was easily the biggest debut of the year racing past the $59.3M of Monsters from just last weekend, and it smashed the old record for April openers held by Anger Management with $42.2M in 2003. The fourth installment in the popular racing series even posted the second largest debut ever in the entire January-to-April corridor trailing only The Passion of the Christ's $83.8M from February 2004. It was a summer-like opening in the middle of spring.

The new Fast not only sped past the opening weekend grosses of all previous installments in the franchise, but it also attracted a larger audience even when ticket price increases are factored in. Openings for the lucrative series included $40.1M for 2001's The Fast and the Furious, $50.5M for 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious, and $24M for 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift which featured a new cast and setting. At today's ticket prices, those figures would amount to roughly $52M, $61M, and $27M respectively. In just three days, the new Fast even beat Tokyo Drift's overall total of $62.5M. With a combined $334M domestically from the first three models, the Furious franchise could now soar past the $500M mark.

The wild success this weekend can be attributed to many factors including marketing, the release date, and the casting. Universal had a tough job convincing fans to take a fourth trip with the decade-old franchise and so the four primary cast members of the first surprise hit were brought back together with a brilliant campaign led by the appealing tagline "New Model. Original Parts." The cool factor was back. Moviegoers were drawn in by the starpower and the promise of a true adrenaline rush. The studio also made a bold move shifting the release date from June 12 where it would have faced intense summer competition, to early April where the road was clear of any traffic. The PG-13 pic had teens and young adults all to itself this weekend. And the whole industry will benefit since millions of movie fans saw trailers for the first wave of summer blockbusters.

For the weekend, Fast surged to a jaw-dropping $30.5M on Friday, then fell 19% to $24.7M on Saturday, and dropped by 36% on Sunday to $15.7M. College basketball semi-finals cut into some business with young males on Saturday night. It was the second biggest debut ever for Universal after Steven Spielberg's 1997 dino-sequel The Lost World which bowed to $72.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its holiday opening (or $115M at today's prices.)

The Vin Diesel-Paul Walker reunion also opened overseas in 32 international territories this weekend and banked another $30.1M for a global launch of $101M. Many top markets are still to come including Russia, France, and the United Kingdom which all open next weekend.

After its top spot debut last weekend, the DreamWorks Animation hit Monsters vs. Aliens fell to second place but still attracted a large audience dropping 45% to $32.6M haul. Compared to other big March toons, the decline fell in between the 35% sophomore dip of Ice Age in 2002 and the 50% fall of its sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown in 2006. The ten-day tally for Monsters rose to $104.8M which is 10% behind the pace of Meltdown after the same period of time but up 20% over the first Ice Age. Ginormica and pals may find themselves battling their way to the neighborhood of $175M domestically.

The spookfest The Haunting in Connecticut fell a sharp 59% in its second weekend to $9.5M settling into third place. Lionsgate's hit thriller has banked an impressive $37.2M in ten days and looks headed for a $50M finish.

Nicolas Cage saw his latest action entry Knowing fall 45% to $8.1M giving Summit $58.2M after 17 days of release. Over the same time period, Paramount's raunchy comedy I Love You, Man has collected $49.2M thanks to $7.7M this weekend. For the second frame in a row, the R-rated laugher posted the smallest decline in the top ten.

The new theme park comedy Adventureland debuted to mild results with $5.7M opening from 1,862 locations. Averaging a lukewarm $3,073 per theater, the R-rated coming-of-age pic starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart earned very strong reviews but failed to capitalize on them at the multiplexes. Its target audience of older teens and young adults were clearly distracted by fast cars this weekend. Adventureland bowed to $2.2M on Friday, remained flat on Saturday with $2.2M again, and slipped 35% on Sunday to $1.4M.

The spy comedy Duplicity starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen dropped 46% to $4.2M pushing the total to $32.3M for Universal. Following in eighth was Disney's Race to Witch Mountain with $3.2M, down 45%, for a $58.2M sum. The John Cena actioner 12 Rounds tumbled 58% in its sophomore effort to $2.3M giving Fox a weak ten-day cume of only $9M.

The indie comedy hit Sunshine Cleaners starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt expanded again in its fourth weekend and jumped into the top ten right at number ten grossing $1.8M. Averaging a respectable $3,773 from 479 sites, the Overture release has successfully widened its run throughout the country each week and has upped the total to $4.7M.

The top ten films grossed $146.1M which was up a stunning 92% from last year when 21 remained in the top spot with $15.3M; and up a sizable 40% from 2007 when Blades of Glory stayed at number one with $22.5M.

Compared to projections, Fast & Furious raced well ahead of my $43M forecast while Adventureland bowed a bit below my $8M prediction.

Be sure to check the NEW box office charts for the Top April Openings and the Top Films of 2009.

For a review of Monsters vs. Aliens visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Hannah Montana The Movie, Observe and Report, and Dragonball Evolution all open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Apr 3 - 5 Mar 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Fast & Furious $ 70,950,500 3,461 1 $ 20,500 $ 70,950,500 Universal
2 Monsters vs. Aliens 32,609,165 59,321,095 -45.0 4,109 2 7,936 104,799,387 Paramount
3 The Haunting in Connecticut 9,481,647 23,004,765 -58.8 2,732 2 3,471 37,171,280 Lionsgate
4 Knowing 8,146,156 14,702,187 -44.6 3,323 3 2,451 58,219,770 Summit
5 I Love You, Man 7,722,469 12,671,533 -39.1 2,829 3 2,730 49,159,559 Paramount
6 Adventureland 5,722,039 1,862 1 3,073 5,722,039 Miramax
7 Duplicity 4,174,240 7,672,485 -45.6 2,522 3 1,655 32,250,215 Universal
8 Race to Witch Mountain 3,212,602 5,801,775 -44.6 2,825 4 1,137 58,249,111 Buena Vista
9 12 Rounds 2,260,906 5,329,240 -57.6 2,331 2 970 8,982,767 Fox
10 Sunshine Cleaning 1,807,164 1,274,007 41.8 479 4 3,773 4,702,721 Overture
11 Taken 1,544,471 2,695,342 -42.7 1,355 10 1,140 139,416,323 Fox
12 The Last House on the Left 1,259,325 2,644,295 -52.4 1,305 4 965 30,674,195 Universal
13 Watchmen 1,074,320 2,732,439 -60.7 1,103 5 974 105,346,566 Warner Bros.
14 Slumdog Millionaire 499,257 1,164,903 -57.1 498 21 1,003 140,244,722 Fox Searchlight
15 Madea Goes to Jail 479,975 1,133,085 -57.6 619 7 775 89,869,224 Lionsgate
16 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 373,718 840,596 -55.5 545 12 686 143,162,362 Sony
17 Gran Torino 268,026 438,481 -38.9 363 17 738 146,236,899 Warner Bros.
18 Under the Sea 3D 255,980 200,922 27.4 43 7 5,953 4,733,885 Warner Bros.
19 He's Just Not That Into You 207,532 473,269 -56.1 261 9 795 92,901,114 Warner Bros.
20 Hotel for Dogs 194,542 314,942 -38.2 240 12 811 71,651,821 Paramount
Top 5 $ 128,909,937 $ 117,372,065 9.8
Top 10 146,086,888 136,575,156 7.0
Top 20 152,244,034 143,137,503 6.4
Top 20 vs. 2008 152,244,034 90,021,583 69.1

Last Updated: April 6, 2009 at 7:45PM ET