Weekend Box Office (June 19 - 21, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Sandra Bullock showed North America who's boss with her return to romantic comedy in The Proposal which gave the actress the biggest opening of her career and her first number one hit in over a decade. Rival comedy Year One enjoyed a respectable debut in fourth place while holdover sensations The Hangover and Up continued their amazing runs with small declines once again. Thanks to four funny films nearing or exceeding $20M a piece, the overall marketplace inched ahead of last year's levels for the first time in four weeks putting the industry in a good position with Megan Fox and the Autobots on the horizon.

Moviegoers gave a very loud yes to Bullock this weekend as The Proposal powered ahead of expectations to open to $33.6M, according to final studio figures, to easily lead the box office race. The bow nearly doubled the $17.6M of her 2007 thriller Premonition to set a new record for the actress who since the mid 1990s has routinely opened films in the $13-17M range. It was also the largest opening for any romantic comedy this year beating the $27.8M of February's He's Just Not That Into You which boasted more starpower with Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, and Drew Barrymore. Proposal averaged a scorching $11,004 from 3,056 locations.

With many male-skewing comedies and action pics this summer, Buena Vista found a great slot on the calendar to target women and was rewarded with a potent debut. Studio research showed that 63% of the audience was female and 86% was 18 and older. Couples made up 71%. Reviews were mixed, but ticket buyers responded to the starpower of the extremely likable lead, good marketing, and the story. Bullock plays a Canadian-born book editor who must pretend to be engaged to her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) in order to avoid deportation. The studio offered sneak previews last weekend which helped to get buzz going among adult women and the date crowd.

Bullock has avoided romantic comedies for much of this decade and audiences clearly missed her. The last time she reached the top of the charts was in March 1999 with Forces of Nature co-starring Ben Affleck which spent two weeks at number one. Proposal performed much like the studio's 2002 blockbuster Sweet Home Alabama, another star-driven rom-com about an uptight New York City big shot who must travel to small town America to fix her wedding dilemmas. That Reese Witherspoon hit opened to $35.6M on its way to a stellar $127.2M.

Though booted from the top spot, the runaway comedy smash The Hangover still attracted strong business in its third weekend slipping a mere 18% to $26.8M propelling the cume to an eye-popping $152.8M. After just 17 days, the Warner Bros. hit has already surpassed the total grosses of recent R-rated summer comedy hits like Sex and the City ($152.6M), Knocked Up ($148.8M), Superbad ($121.5M), and The 40-Year-Old Virgin ($109.2M). This weekend, the men-behaving-badly smash also passed Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino ($148.1M) to become the highest-grossing R flick since 300 which launched in March 2007 on its way to $210.6M. All three were distributed by Warner Bros. Hangover now looks set to pass $225M and could even reach the $250M mark although with its incredible durability, the sky's the limit.

For the third straight session, Pixar's Up followed Hangover on the charts and collected $23.5M in its fourth weekend. Down only 24%, the Disney release shattered the $200M barrier on Thursday and boosted its 24-day total to $226.3M. The grumpy old man flick proved to be a popular draw on Father's Day as sales slipped by only a scant 5% on Sunday. Up is performing very much like Pixar's biggest fish Finding Nemo which dropped 26% to $21.1M in its fourth weekend putting its total at $228.5M. With help from higher ticket prices and surcharges for 3D, Up is running only 1% behind Nemo's pace. But the road ahead will get tricky as Fox will steal away most of Up's 3D screens when it launches its animated sequel Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs on July 1 leaving the flying house flick with mostly 2D runs. Fox held sneaks of Ice Age on Sunday nationwide in select theaters for Father's Day.

More comedy could be found in the number four spot. The Jack Black-Michael Cera vehicle Year One bowed with $19.6M from 3,022 locations for a solid $6,489 average. Young guys were the primary audience for the PG-13 tale of two slacker hunter-gathers from ancient times who go out and explore the world. Studio research showed that males made up 57% of the audience while 47% were under 21. With other comedies targeting adult women, older adults, and small kids, Sony found an opportunity to connect with its target demo. But the road ahead will get difficult very quickly with a gargantuan debut expected for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen starting Tuesday night at midnight.

Audiences didn't take to Denzel Washington in the second weekend of his hostage thriller The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. The Sony release tumbled 49% to $12M putting the ten-day tally at $44.1M. It was a bigger sophomore drop than those the Oscar winner saw with previous R-rated pics like Man on Fire (34%), Inside Man (47%), and American Gangster (45%). Budgeted at more than $100M, Pelham should finish its North American run with $65-70M and will need a strong international run.

Two franchise films with strong legs followed. Fox's Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian grossed $7.8M, down 19%, for a $156.5M cume to date. Ranking as the year's top-grossing film for possibly the last weekend, Star Trek actually saw sales inch up 1% to $5.5M and has collected a stellar $240.3M thus far. Dads rushed out to see Captain Kirk and pals as Sunday sales shot up 15% from Saturday.

Rounding out the top ten were some of the summer's unlucky films. Crashing 52% in its third weekend, Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost fell to eighth place with $4.4M and a total of $44.1M for Universal. Fellow SNL alum Eddie Murphy followed with his latest box office stinker Imagine That which grossed $3.3M for Paramount, off 40%, putting the sum at a pitiful $11.5M after ten days. Terminator Salvation dropped 31% to $3.3M giving Warner Bros. $119.7M domestically.

Woody Allen's latest Whatever Works enjoyed a sparkling debut in limited release grossing $281,000 from only nine locations for a muscular $31,222 average. The Sony Classics release attracted mixed feelings from critics but the PG-13 film will continue to expand to more markets in the weeks ahead.

The top ten films grossed $139.8M which was up 3% from last year when Get Smart opened in the top spot with $38.7M; and up 15% from 2007 when Steve Carell also ruled with Evan Almighty which debuted at number one with $31.2M.

Compared to projections, The Proposal powered ahead of my $22M forecast while Year One opened on target with my $20M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For a NEW review of The Proposal visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and My Sister's Keeper both open.

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

# Title Jun 19 - 21 Jun 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Proposal $ 33,627,598 3,056 1 $ 11,004 $ 33,627,598 Buena Vista
2 The Hangover 26,753,473 32,794,387 -18.4 3,545 3 7,547 152,817,015 Warner Bros.
3 Up 23,492,677 30,762,280 -23.6 3,832 4 6,131 226,268,932 Buena Vista
4 Year One 19,610,304 3,022 1 6,489 19,610,304 Sony
5 The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 12,034,899 23,373,102 -48.5 3,077 2 3,911 44,067,224 Sony
6 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smith. 7,807,185 9,616,907 -18.8 2,962 5 2,636 156,459,744 Fox
7 Star Trek 5,511,434 5,454,563 1.0 2,307 7 2,389 240,255,340 Paramount
8 Land of the Lost 4,358,945 8,994,030 -51.5 2,945 3 1,480 44,055,510 Universal
9 Imagine That 3,290,227 5,503,519 -40.2 3,011 2 1,093 11,541,605 Paramount
10 Terminator Salvation 3,284,230 4,787,487 -31.4 1,920 5 1,711 119,727,528 Warner Bros.
11 Angels & Demons 2,820,196 4,111,457 -31.4 1,888 6 1,494 128,158,818 Sony
12 Drag Me to Hell 1,974,375 3,932,585 -49.8 1,625 4 1,215 39,234,860 Universal
13 Away We Go 871,224 560,815 55.3 132 3 6,600 1,937,113 Focus
14 X-Men Origins: Wolverine 635,130 933,573 -32.0 536 8 1,185 177,288,905 Fox
15 My Life in Ruins 460,935 1,710,353 -73.1 644 3 716 7,821,989 Fox Searchlight
16 Easy Virtue 429,101 299,716 43.2 255 5 1,683 1,575,197 Sony Classics
17 Food, Inc. 288,194 60,513 376.3 51 2 5,651 385,920 Magnolia
18 17 Again 278,984 415,883 -32.9 318 10 877 62,730,645 Warner Bros.
19 Under the Sea 3D 268,997 227,619 18.2 42 19 6,405 10,422,675 Warner Bros.
20 Whatever Works 266,162 9 1 29,574 266,162 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 115,518,951 $ 105,540,706 9.5
Top 10 139,770,972 129,330,317 8.1
Top 20 148,064,270 135,167,483 9.5
Top 20 vs. 2008 148,064,270 140,707,550 5.2

Last Updated: June 22, 2009 at 4:50PM ET