Weekend Box Office (May 29 - 31, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Pixar and Disney celebrated their tenth straight number one smash with the 3D flying house flick Up which enjoyed a strong opening atop the North American box office. The new horror film Drag Me to Hell played well to those looking for a scare with its third place finish. Most holdovers fell by more than 50% from last weekend's holiday session but overall sales for the top ten still matched up to last year.

Moviegoers spent the weekend with a grumpy old man and an adventurous young scout as the animated film Up debuted at number one with $68.1M from 3,766 locations, according to final studio figures. Averaging a stellar $18,085 per location, the PG-rated film continued Pixar's lucky streak which has seen every one of its offerings debut at number one in its first weekend of wide release. Grosses were boosted by extra surcharges that theaters collected for the 3D presentation, the first ever for Pixar. For example, New York City's Lincoln Square theater charges $12.50 for regular tickets, but $16.50 for Up in 3D.

Showered with praise and glowing reviews from critics, Up enjoyed the fourth biggest opening of 2009 trailing just X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($85.1M), Star Trek ($75.2M), and Fast & Furious ($71M). Friday kicked off the release with $21.4M, Saturday rose 24% to $26.5M, and Sunday declined by 24% to $20.2M. Up unspooled in a record 1,534 3D locations with Disney reporting those theaters grossing 2.2 times more than the regular-priced 2D screens.

Up was able to fly past the $63.1M of its studio's last entry WALL•E, although the higher ticket prices meant the audience size was a bit smaller. But a clear victory was won over this year's 3D smash Monsters vs. Aliens from rival DreamWorks Animation which bowed to $59.3M in March. Not only did Monsters benefit from higher 3D prices but it also opened wider in 338 more locations. Up now holds the record for the biggest opening for a 3D pic.

For Pixar, Up ranks as its third best debut ever after The Incredibles ($70.4M in 2004) and Finding Nemo ($70.3M in 2003). And it was the sixth largest bow for any animated film in history behind Shrek the Third ($121.6M in 2007), Shrek 2 ($108M in 2004), The Simpsons Movie ($74M in 2007), Incredibles, and Nemo.

Disney was able to reach all audiences this weekend. Studio data showed that the crowd was 53% female and 53% 18 and older. With a CinemaScore rating of A+, one notch higher than WALL•E's A from last summer, a long life is expected. Plus kidpic offerings are light between now and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs on July 1. With more and more schools closing for the school year in the coming days, Up should be able to hold up well in the weeks ahead and challenge Star Trek for the summer box office crown. That is, until the mid-summer tentpoles Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince arrive.

With the Pixar folks stealing away the family audience, Fox's Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian took a sizable hit falling 55% to second place with $24.4M in ticket sales. After ten days of release, the PG-rated comedy adventure has pulled in an impressive $104.2M becoming the tenth film of the year to join the century club. A final tally in the vicinity of $170M seems likely putting Smithsonian about one-third behind the $250.9M of the first Museum which opened over Christmas weekend in 2006.

John Connor saw most of his followers vanish as the action sequel Terminator Salvation tumbled 61% in its second weekend to $16.4M falling a spot to third place. It was a larger drop than the 56% decline suffered by T3: Rise of the Machines in July 2003 after its extended holiday debut. Released by Warner Bros., Salvation has generated $90.9M over 11 days and looks headed for a final domestic tally of roughly $135M. That would put the new Christian Bale actioner 13% behind the $150.4M gross of T3, and a troubling 28% behind in actual tickets sold. Salvation cost a reported $200M to produce and was backed by a pricey marketing campaign. Overseas, the sci-fi film opened at number one in seven Asian territories through Sony this weekend and grossed $8.6M from 673 runs for a solid $12,700 average.

Universal's supernatural thriller Drag Me to Hell from director Sam Raimi debuted in fourth place with $15.8M from 2,508 theaters for a solid $6,310 average. While not a bad opening in any way, the debut was a bit disappointing given the starpower of the filmmaker, lack of horror films for two months, and the spectacular reviews from critics. Fellow PG-13 spookfests The Unborn and The Haunting of Connecticut opened to $21.1M and $23M respectively this year. Universal even generated a $21M bow for its horror pic The Strangers a year ago this very weekend. Drag's 11% Friday-to-Saturday drop should mean a shaky road ahead.

Posting the smallest decline in the top ten was Star Trek which dropped to fifth with $12.6M, down 45%. Paramount's reboot hit crossed the $200M mark on Friday in its 22nd day of release and became the first film of the year, and first since last summer's The Dark Knight, to surpass the double-century mark. With $209.3M in the bank, Trek is still plotting a course to reach $245-250M domestically.

Dropping 48% to sixth place was the Tom Hanks thriller Angels & Demons with $11.4M. The Sony release upped its domestic cume to $104.9M and is running 39% behind the pace of 2006's The Da Vinci Code. The Angels international total climbed to $251.7M this weekend and is now also 39% behind Code overseas. The global take for Demons stands at $356.6M.

Paramount's spoof comedy Dance Flick stumbled 55% in its second weekend and ranked seventh with $4.7M. With $19.1M in ten days, the Wayans venture should finish its run with roughly $30M. The summer kickoff flick X-Men Origins: Wolverine followed with $3.9M for Fox, down 52%, for a $170.8M sum. The mutant prequel is currently the third biggest grosser of 2009 and may end up with $180M.

The Matthew McConaughey comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past grossed $1.9M for Warner Bros., off 50%, and has taken $50M to date. Sony's relationship thriller Obsessed tumbled 67% to $657,001 for a cume of $67.5M thus far.

Regent bowed the Oscar-winning Japanese film Departures in just nine locations and grossed $74,945 for a respectable $8,327 average.

The top ten films grossed $159.9M which was off 2% from last year when Sex and the City opened in the top spot with $56.8M; but up 25% from 2007 when Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End remained at number one with $44.2M.

Compared to projections, Up opened a few notches above my $62M forecast while Drag Me to Hell debuted well below my $24M prediction.

Check the NEW box office charts for Pixar's top openings and 2009's top blockbusters.

For NEW reviews of Up and Drag Me to Hell visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Hangover, Land of the Lost, and My Life in Ruins all open.

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

# Title May 29 - 31 May 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Up $ 68,108,790 3,766 1 $ 18,085 $ 68,108,790 Buena Vista
2 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian 24,353,868 54,173,286 -55.0 4,101 2 5,939 104,150,268 Fox
3 Terminator Salvation 16,433,365 42,558,390 -61.4 3,602 2 4,562 90,949,924 Warner Bros.
4 Drag Me to Hell 15,825,480 2,508 1 6,310 15,825,480 Universal
5 Star Trek 12,613,777 22,892,262 -44.9 3,507 4 3,597 209,313,884 Paramount
6 Angels & Demons 11,353,340 21,721,903 -47.7 3,464 3 3,278 104,913,439 Sony
7 Dance Flick 4,743,636 10,643,536 -55.4 2,459 2 1,929 19,084,907 Paramount
8 X-Men Origins: Wolverine 3,873,377 8,070,557 -52.0 2,263 5 1,712 170,843,712 Fox
9 Ghosts of Girlfriends Past 1,911,401 3,845,424 -50.3 1,450 5 1,318 50,021,779 Warner Bros.
10 Obsessed 657,001 1,975,753 -66.7 679 6 968 67,500,481 Sony
11 The Brothers Bloom 627,971 384,476 63.3 148 3 4,243 1,360,130 Summit
12 The Soloist 485,215 849,457 -42.9 412 6 1,178 30,251,623 Paramount
13 Hannah Montana The Movie 421,198 461,065 -8.6 310 8 1,359 77,548,719 Buena Vista
14 17 Again 339,549 1,015,178 -66.6 405 7 838 61,233,890 Warner Bros.
15 Race to Witch Mountain 327,956 286,982 14.3 283 12 1,159 65,814,397 Buena Vista
16 Monsters vs. Aliens 320,040 1,459,198 -78.1 566 10 565 194,421,864 Paramount
17 Earth 294,052 467,418 -37.1 315 6 933 31,112,280 Buena Vista
18 Fast & Furious 242,190 351,545 -31.1 299 9 810 153,945,790 Universal
19 Under the Sea 3D 231,104 267,053 -13.5 41 16 5,637 8,834,201 Warner Bros.
20 Next Day Air 202,652 604,805 -66.5 235 4 862 9,479,286 Summit
Top 5 $ 137,335,280 $ 151,989,377 -9.6
Top 10 159,874,035 168,355,487 -5.0
Top 20 163,365,962 172,584,609 -5.3
Top 20 vs. 2008 163,365,962 166,036,155 -1.6

Last Updated: June 1, 2009 at 9:30PM ET