Weekend Box Office (April 10 - 12, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The queen of teendom Miley Cyrus flexed her muscles again at the multiplexes with Hannah Montana The Movie which defeated all competitors for a squeaky clean number one debut over the Easter holiday weekend. Former chart-toppers Fast & Furious and Monsters vs. Aliens kicked in over $20M a piece powering the overall marketplace to its best showing ever for the bunny holiday.

Disney ruled the North American box office with a $32.3M opening for Hannah over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, as the actress/rocker's fan base came out in droves. The G-rated film about the popular television character's reconnection to her roots averaged a powerful $10,367 from 3,118 theaters. It was the second biggest opening ever over the Easter holiday frame trailing only 2006's Scary Movie 4 ($40.2M). Hannah also scored the fifth largest April debut after Fast & Furious ($71M), Anger Management ($42.2M), Scary 4, and The Scorpion King ($36.1M).

The teen superstar first proved her box office clout last year with the music pic Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert which debuted at number one over Super Bowl weekend with a stunning $31.1M from only 683 3D venues for an eye-popping $45,561 average. Higher $15 ticket prices, a more narrow release, and the promotion of the film as a one-week-only event made it a unique player at the box office. But Hannah Montana The Movie proved that the tween brand is still strong a year later and that Miley can open a regular film on her own. Cyrus has now seen her last two films both open at number one with $30M+ debuts, something most Hollywood A-listers can't claim. Her talent reps must now see whether she can still open a picture outside of the Hannah Montana franchise. Next up for the sixteen-year-old is The Last Song, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, which Disney plans to have in theaters next year.

The studio chose Easter weekend for Montana since most of its target audience of school children and parents would have extra time off thanks to schools being closed on Good Friday. That holiday helped propel opening day sales to a stunning $17.3M as intense demand pulled most of the crowd out in the first day. Saturday fell sharply by 40% to $10.3M while Easter Sunday dropped by 54% to $4.7M. More than half of the weekend tally (53%) was collected on Friday. The audience breakdown had no surprises - 79% of the crowd was female, 60% was under 17, and two-thirds were families.

Dropping back to second place was last weekend's gargantuan opener Fast & Furious which tumbled 62% to $27.2M in its second lap. The sophomore weekend decline was in line with past films from the franchise as 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious dropped 63% while 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift fell by 59%. Neither had a holiday helping the second frame. After ten days, the new Furious has raced to a stunning $116.5M and should speed past the $127.2M of 2 Fast next weekend before eventually racing ahead of the $144.5M of the original The Fast and the Furious from 2001. A final domestic tally of $160-170M could result for the Vin Diesel-Paul Walker reunion.

Overseas has been on fire too as the Universal smash grossed $46.5M this weekend from 50 territories to boost the international sum to $91M. The global gross now stands at an incredible $207.5M after less than two weeks and by the end of this week, the racing sequel will become the highest-grossing installment of the lucrative series on a worldwide basis. Talks have already begun on a fifth chapter starring both leads.

Kids lured in by 3D gimmickry were still lining up for the animated adventure Monsters vs. Aliens which pulled in $21.8M in its third weekend. Off just 33%, the PG-rated smash posted a great hold and boosted its total to a stellar $140.2M in 17 days. Monsters is now on the same course as two recent toon sequels that made a killing running only 5% behind the pace of 2006's Ice Age: The Meltdown and 2% ahead of last fall's Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Those blockbusters each went on to gross north of $180M domestically and more than $590M worldwide. Meltdown, like Monsters, had Easter to help the third frame but its drop was bigger at 41% and its weekend take was smaller at $20M. By the end of the week, the DreamWorks hit will become the top-grossing film of 2009 and could find its way to the neighborhood of $190M from North America alone.

This weekend underscored how big moviegoing has been this year over holiday sessions. All three holiday frames this year not only beat 2008 numbers, but soared ahead by more than 20% in each case. Compared to last year, 2009's Martin Luther King weekend was up 24%, Presidents' Day frame was up 33%, and the Easter session climbed 22%.

Monsters voice actor Seth Rogen opened a new live-action comedy Observe and Report this weekend, but bowed at number four with a mediocre $11M. The Warner Bros. release averaged a mild $4,040 from 2,727 sites and performed much like the actor's last R-rated laugher Zack and Miri Make a Porno which opened to $10.1M from 2,735 locations last fall. Observe, which co-starred Anna Faris, featured Rogen playing a mall cop battling a streaker menacing his domain. Reviews were mixed.

The two films that followed both enjoyed small declines over the holiday frame. Nicolas Cage's actioner Knowing dipped by only 21% to $6.4M for Summit boosting the cume to a solid $67.8M. Paramount's comedy I Love You, Man slid by just 19% to $6.3M for a $58.9M total to date. Dropping 38% to $5.9M was The Haunting in Connecticut which has taken in $46.5M for Lionsgate so far.

Failing to connect with moviegoers was the new sci-fi action pic Dragonball Evolution which limped to a $4.8M debut putting it in eighth place. The PG-rated film was aimed at young boys but was rejected averaging a weak $2,181 from 2,181 locations for Fox. On the bright side, it became that rare film to open with identical average and theater count.

Rounding out the top ten were Miramax's Adventureland with $3.4M and Universal's Duplicity with $3M. The theme park comedy fell by 41% in its second weekend and lifted its ten-day tally to a disappointing $11.4M while the Julia Roberts spy flick eased by only 28% raising the cume to $36.8M, a low figure for the A-list actress.

The top ten films grossed $122.1M which was up a scorching 57% from last year when Prom Night opened in the top spot with $20.8M; and up a solid 29% from last year's Easter frame which fell in mid-March when Horton Hears a Who stayed at number one with $24.6M.

Compared to projections, The Hannah Montana Movie powered ahead of my $26M forecast while Observe and Report and Dragonball Evolution both debuted a couple of notches below my respective predictions of $14M and $8M.

Be sure to check the UPDATED box office chart for the Top 10 April Openings. 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 17 Again, Crank High Voltage, and State of Play all open.

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

# Title Apr 10 - 12 Apr 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hannah Montana The Movie $ 32,324,487 3,118 1 $ 10,367 $ 32,324,487 Buena Vista
2 Fast & Furious 27,237,905 70,950,500 -61.6 3,472 2 7,845 116,497,095 Universal
3 Monsters vs. Aliens 21,812,253 32,609,165 -33.1 4,136 3 5,274 140,203,799 Paramount
4 Observe and Report 11,017,334 2,727 1 4,040 11,017,334 Warner Bros.
5 Knowing 6,433,433 8,146,156 -21.0 2,925 4 2,199 67,769,550 Summit
6 I Love You, Man 6,280,790 7,722,469 -18.7 2,643 4 2,376 58,865,219 Paramount
7 The Haunting in Connecticut 5,901,215 9,481,647 -37.8 2,721 3 2,169 46,488,580 Lionsgate
8 Dragonball Evolution 4,756,488 2,181 1 2,181 4,756,488 Fox
9 Adventureland 3,353,618 5,722,039 -41.4 1,876 2 1,788 11,370,909 Miramax
10 Duplicity 2,995,850 4,174,240 -28.2 1,965 4 1,525 36,847,445 Universal
11 Race to Witch Mountain 1,908,670 3,212,602 -40.6 2,172 5 879 61,964,133 Buena Vista
12 Sunshine Cleaning 1,733,473 1,807,164 -4.1 598 5 2,899 7,152,730 Overture
13 Taken 1,083,022 1,544,471 -29.9 872 11 1,242 141,107,779 Fox
14 12 Rounds 796,632 2,260,906 -64.8 908 3 877 10,757,296 Fox
15 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 596,019 373,718 59.5 514 13 1,160 143,959,523 Sony
16 The Last House on the Left 591,850 1,259,325 -53.0 623 5 950 31,735,585 Universal
17 Watchmen 554,430 1,074,320 -48.4 453 6 1,224 106,418,446 Warner Bros.
18 Sin Nombre 333,187 184,380 80.7 65 4 5,126 806,681 Focus
19 Under the Sea 3D 310,621 255,980 21.3 43 8 7,224 5,345,538 Warner Bros.
20 Slumdog Millionaire 282,366 499,257 -43.4 306 22 923 140,751,191 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 98,825,412 $ 128,909,937 -23.3
Top 10 122,113,373 146,086,888 -16.4
Top 20 130,303,643 152,244,034 -14.4
Top 20 vs. Easter 2008 130,303,643 106,791,035 22.0

Last Updated: April 13, 2009 at 6:00PM ET