Weekend Box Office (May 15 - 17, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard reteamed for their second Robert Langdon adventure Angels & Demons and reached number one with an opening that was respectable, but not spectacular. More impressive was the remarkable second weekend hold that the sci-fi actioner Star Trek enjoyed close behind in the runnerup spot. A mere $3M separated the two films even though Trek has been in theaters a week longer. With only one new opener, most holdovers saw relatively low declines as for the first time since early February, no film in the top ten dropped by more than 50%.

Taking over the top spot this weekend, Angels & Demons debuted with $46.2M from 3,527 theaters for a solid $13,100 average per location. The PG-13 film starred Hanks in his second turn as Harvard symbologist Langdon with Howard directing once again. The two first joined forces for the book-to-film franchise with 2006's The Da Vinci Code which opened on this same weekend to a sensational $77.1M. By comparison, Angels bowed 40% smaller and sold 46% fewer tickets on opening weekend. Estimated admissions in the first three days were about 11 million for Code and around 6 million for Angels.

The new film was not expected to come close to Da Vinci's numbers for a few reasons. Code was based on a much more popular book selling over 80 million copies, roughly twice as many as Demons which was published earlier. Code also attracted global controversy surrounding its religious subject matter which angered the Catholic Church which took a more laid back approach this time. The religious community did not want to help make the filmmakers rich again. The 2006 film also generated buzz for being the first project involving a Dan Brown novel. Angels entered the marketplace feeling like more of the same. Hanks and Howard were also very clear in their press interviews in recent weeks that people who might be offended by the storyline should not come out and buy tickets. Those folks apparently listened.

But many expected Demons to open with at least $50M as there were no other new films competing against it. Plus the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday frame is one of Hollywood's biggest launching pads for franchise films. Angels delivered the lowest opening for this weekend since 2000's animated film Dinosaur which bowed to $38.9M for Disney (more than $52M at today's prices). The better-than-expected hold by the buzzworthy Star Trek may also have contributed. For 2009 openers, the new Hanks vehicle ranks only sixth.

Angels earned slightly better reviews than Da Vinci and still played to a mature adult audience. Studio research showed that females made up 52% of the audience and those over and under the age of 30 were split evenly.

As with the last Langdon flick, Sony opened Angels & Demons in almost every major international market on the same weekend. The new Vatican pic performed exceptionally well grossing an estimated $104.3M this weekend from top spot bows in all 96 territories for a global opening of $150.5M. International markets were crucial to the runaway success of The Da Vinci Code which collected a stunning 71% of its $757M worldwide total from outside of North America. The domestic take was a still solid $217.5M.

With bigger paychecks for the principals, Angels & Demons carried a price tag of about $150M and has the potential to reach $400M or more globally. Da Vinci cost $125M.

Displaying amazing legs in its second weekend was the sci-fi reboot Star Trek which dropped by only 43% to bank $43M for a sturdy second place finish. That boosted the cume for the Paramount franchise flick to a stunning $147.6M in only 10.5 days. It was the biggest second weekend haul for any film since last summer's juggernaut The Dark Knight which grossed an eye-popping $75.2M in its sophomore session. It was also the smallest sophomore decline for a $40M+ opener over the past year.

Trek's electric word-of-mouth has been spreading allowing the action pic to win new fans, generate repeat business, and keep Imax auditoriums full. In fact on Saturday and Sunday, it was the number one film in North America edging out Angels & Demons by a small margin. Star Trek enjoyed a healthy 56% Friday-to-Saturday bump compared to just 8% for the Hanks film.

A 43% decline on the second weekend is unusually rare for heavily hyped sci-fi and action films. Trek's performance beat out sophomore drops for such blockbuster franchise tentpoles as The Dark Knight (53%), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (55%), Quantum of Solace (60%), and Fast & Furious (62%). It was even better than the 48% fall that Iron Man witnessed on its way to a long and durable run during the summer box office last year. The Marvel hero was also released by Paramount with Thursday night previews and its $177.8M cume in the first 10.5 days accounted for 56% of its eventual $318.4M domestic final.

By Tuesday, the Kirk-and-Spock adventure will overtake Wolverine to become the top grossing summer film and will set the standard that all future event films this year will try to live up to. Based on its current course, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise should make its way past the $250M mark in North America and could soar much higher if it keeps playing this well.

Overseas, where the franchise has never been all that strong, the new Star Trek is working and playing like a fun action film for all audiences. This weekend it grossed another $21M from 57 markets to boost the foreign total to $70M and the global gross to $217.6M.

Former number one X-Men Origins: Wolverine fell a reasonable 44% in its third weekend to $14.7M pushing the 17-day total to $151M. A final domestic tally of $180-190M seems possible for Fox. Overseas, the Hugh Jackman actioner sliced up $13.5M from an ultrawide 103 markets raising the international haul to $144.5M and the worldwide tally to $295.5M.

With the mutant prequel and the Enterprise reboot, the domestic box office has now seen a whopping seven films this year surpass $140M. Only two had reached that level at this same point last year - Iron Man and Horton Hears a Who.

Together, Wolverine, Trek, and Demons have grossed a combined $664M from theaters around the world kickstarting what should be a red hot summer ahead with likely blockbusters from the Terminator, Night at the Museum, Transformers, and Harry Potter franchises still to come.

Matthew McConaughey's latest turn at a charismatic stud in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past saw a 35% drop to $6.7M pushing the 17-day total to a solid $39.9M for Warner Bros. The wedding-themed date film is running 18% ahead of last May's chick flick offering Made of Honor. In its fourth weekend, the Beyoncé Knowles thriller Obsessed took in $4.6M for Sony, off just 30%, for a $62.6M cume.

The high school comedy 17 Again followed dipping a mere 20% to $3.4M putting the Warner Bros. hit at $58.4M to date. The Zac Efron pic reached $48.7M overseas allowing the global gross to climb to an impressive $107.1M. Still the top-grossing blockbuster of 2009, the hit toon Monsters vs Aliens landed in seventh place in its eighth weekend with $3.2M. Sliding a scant 2%, the DreamWorks pic has upped its sum to $190.7M and looks likely to become the animation studio's fifth feature to break the $200M mark joining Kung Fu Panda and the three helpings of Shrek.

Rounding out the top ten were the Robert Downey Jr.-Jamie Foxx drama The Soloist with $2.4M, the Donald Faison-Mike Epps comedy Next Day Air with $2.2M, and the nature documentary Earth with $1.7M. Respective totals stand at $27.5M for Paramount, $7.6M for Summit, and $29.1M for Disney.

Despite mixed reviews, Summit's indie comedy Brothers Bloom fared well in its limited opening with $90,400 from only four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a robust $22,600 average. The Adrien Brody-Mark Ruffalo starrer will expand to the Top 15 markets on Friday for the long weekend hoping to give arthouse audiences an alternative to all the mindless popcorn fare.

The top ten films grossed $128.1M which was up 3% from last year when The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian opened in the top spot with $55M; but down 25% from 2007 when Shrek the Third debuted at number one with $121.6M.

Compared to projections, Angels & Demons fell short of my $53M forecast.

Check the UPDATED box office chart for the Top Films of 2009 and the NEW charts for the best 2nd weekends of the past year. For a review of Star Trek visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Terminator: Salvation and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian both kick off the long Memorial Day holiday session.

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

# Title May 15 - 17 May 8 - 10 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Angels & Demons $ 46,204,168 3,527 1 $ 13,100 $ 46,204,168 Sony
2 Star Trek 43,034,547 75,204,289 -42.8 3,860 2 11,149 147,645,384 Paramount
3 X-Men Origins: Wolverine 14,702,425 26,408,288 -44.3 3,892 3 3,778 150,993,169 Fox
4 Ghosts of Girlfriends Past 6,653,384 10,258,141 -35.1 3,150 3 2,112 39,855,222 Warner Bros.
5 Obsessed 4,588,973 6,560,266 -30.0 2,634 4 1,742 62,610,148 Sony
6 17 Again 3,368,189 4,232,422 -20.4 2,450 5 1,375 58,363,111 Warner Bros.
7 Monsters vs. Aliens 3,182,085 3,260,440 -2.4 1,951 8 1,631 190,733,766 Paramount
8 The Soloist 2,402,801 3,949,430 -39.2 2,022 4 1,188 27,505,154 Paramount
9 Next Day Air 2,244,878 4,111,043 -45.4 1,139 2 1,971 7,613,221 Summit
10 Earth 1,697,956 2,666,219 -36.3 1,584 4 1,072 29,088,771 Buena Vista
11 Hannah Montana The Movie 1,613,180 2,193,043 -26.4 1,625 6 993 75,985,104 Buena Vista
12 Fighting 1,112,525 2,010,075 -44.7 1,166 4 954 22,202,795 Universal
13 State of Play 958,400 1,918,295 -50.0 988 5 970 35,568,970 Universal
14 Fast & Furious 793,805 1,254,010 -36.7 882 7 900 152,952,195 Universal
15 Rudo y Cursi 444,131 211,460 110.0 219 2 2,028 738,706 Sony Classics
16 I Love You, Man 401,520 507,667 -20.9 340 9 1,181 70,686,399 Paramount
17 Management 375,916 212 1 1,773 375,916 IDP/Samuel Goldwyn
18 Knowing 337,008 303,297 11.1 421 9 800 78,836,466 Summit
19 Under the Sea 3D 277,064 231,147 19.9 40 14 6,927 7,763,851 Warner Bros.
20 Taken 239,966 448,375 -46.5 250 16 960 144,540,399 Fox
Top 5 $ 115,183,497 $ 122,663,406 -6.1
Top 10 128,079,406 138,843,581 -7.8
Top 20 134,632,921 146,317,335 -8.0
Top 20 vs. 2008 134,632,921 128,672,605 4.6

Last Updated: May 18, 2009 at 7:30PM ET