Weekend Box Office (July 24 - 26, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Audiences shifted their attention from horny teen wizards to talking guinea pigs as Disney's 3D action film G-Force pulled an upset at the North American box office knocking Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince out of the top spot in its second weekend. The Hogwarts flick fell sharply but still pulled in a solid gross and continued its sensational run around the world. Mature audiences came out in impressive numbers for the Katherine Heigl-Gerard Butler comedy The Ugly Truth which opened well in third place.

Families rushed to multiplexes to see adorable talking animals as G-Force powered its way to the top spot with $31.7M from an ultrawide release in 3,697 theaters, according to final studio figures. Averaging a healthy $8,576 per theater, the PG-rated action-adventure about guinea pig government spies connected with family audiences and took advantage of higher-priced tickets from its 1,600 3D locations. With almost $500M spent this summer on 3D toons Up and Ice Age, kids and parents were ready to move on to a live-action film that still offered clean and fun entertainment for children of all ages. The Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer brand names also added some weight.

G-Force continued the studio's great summer following Up and The Proposal which also debuted at number one. The trio could end up grossing a powerful $550M or more combined.

Dropping to second place was the film most expected to top the charts, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which grossed $29.5M in its second weekend. The wizard sequel fell a steep 62% which was completely expected given the last film's 58% sophomore drop. After 12 days, the newest Potter has banked an impressive $221.3M putting it 7% ahead of the pace of 2007's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which stood at $207.9M at the same point in its run. Factoring in ticket price increases, the two films have sold an identical amount of tickets over their first dozen days, although Prince did it with virtually no IMAX sales. Phoenix grossed a slightly better $32.5M in its second frame.

With the bulk of its IMAX run to start this Wednesday, Half-Blood Prince could be on its way to a domestic total of $300M or a bit more. Overseas, the new Hogwarts tale fell sharply but still led the international box office with a muscular $84.4M from over 16,000 screens in 64 markets boosting the overseas total to an eye-popping $404M and the worldwide tally to a stunning $625M. The dazzling performance this weekend led to two major milestones - Warner Bros. smashed the $1 billion mark in overseas box office for 2009 and the Harry Potter franchise shattered the $5 billion mark across its six films in eight years. The series has grossed $5.1 billion and counting and should reach at least $5.4 billion with two more installments still to come.

Sony targeted the date crowd and scored an impressive opening for its romantic comedy The Ugly Truth which bowed in the third slot with $27.6M from 2,882 theaters. The R-rated pic averaged a strong $9,579 which was tops among films in the top ten. It also underscored the growing box office clout of Katherine Heigl who enjoyed a $23M debut last year anchoring the comedy 27 Dresses. Studio research showed that 62% of the audience was female while 64% was over 25. Adult women and couples have had no new films specifically for them over the past month as most movies have targeted kids, teens, or the action crowd. The lack of competition helped the $38M production overcome horrible reviews from critics and last week's sneak previews helped to spread advance buzz.

The new horror title Orphan performed moderately in its debut grossing $12.8M from 2,750 locations this weekend. Bowing in fourth place with a decent $4,644 average, the R-rated thriller about a creepy girl adopted by unsuspecting parents performed much like past fright flicks like One Missed Call and The Eye which opened to $12.4M and $12.5M, respectively.

Fox's hit toon Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs lost audiences and 3D screens to the guinea pigs this weekend and suffered its worst decline yet falling 52% to $8.4M. With a solid $171.5M in the bank, a final gross close to the $195.3M of Ice Age: The Meltdown and $197.8M of this spring's 3D flick Monsters vs. Aliens still seems likely. Overseas, Dawn shattered the half-billion mark with an estimated $40.6M this weekend from 102 markets for an international cume of $505.4M and a dizzying global tally of $677M.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen fell out of the top five in its fifth weekend, but it did climb into the All-Time Top 10 list. The robot sequel scored $8.1M, down 41%, boosting the total to $379.2M after 33 days of release. That puts Michael Bay's critically-panned testosterone flick at number 10 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters bumping off Oscar champ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which took in $377M in 2003 and 2004. The Peter Jackson adventure sold more tickets though since ticket prices have increased since then. Reaching $400M should not be a problem for Transformers which will end up selling about as many tickets as 1997's Men in Black, another summer sci-fi smash executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

A week away from joining the All-Time Top 50, The Hangover enjoyed yet another solid frame grossing $6.5M, off just 21%, giving Warner Bros. a $247.1M total. A hair behind in eighth place was another successful summer comedy The Proposal which slipped only 23% to $6.4M for a $140M cume. This is the sixth straight weekend that the two comedies were side-by-side on the charts although Sandra Bullock spent the first five times on top.

Universal rounded out the top ten with the gangster drama Public Enemies with $4.4M and the fashionista pic Brüno with $2.8M. The Johnny Depp vehicle fell 44% raising the sum to $88.3M while the Sacha Baron Cohen pic tumbled 66% for a $56.6M cume.

The top ten films grossed $138.1M which was down 19% from last year when The Dark Knight stayed in the top spot with $75.2M; and also down 19% from 2007 when The Simpsons Movie debuted at number one with $74M.

Compared to projections, G-Force, The Ugly Truth, and Orphan all debuted above my respective forecasts of $20M, $21M, and $9M.

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

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top Films of 2009. For a review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Funny People and Aliens in the Attic both debut.

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

# Title Jul 24 - 26 Jul 17 - 19 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 G-Force $ 31,706,934 3,697 1 $ 8,576 $ 31,706,934 Buena Vista
2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 29,462,187 77,835,727 -62.1 4,325 2 6,812 221,295,818 Warner Bros.
3 The Ugly Truth 27,605,576 2,882 1 9,579 27,605,576 Sony
4 Orphan 12,871,483 2,750 1 4,681 12,770,000 Warner Bros.
5 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 8,408,430 17,561,406 -52.1 3,300 4 2,548 171,499,101 Fox
6 Transformers: ROTF 8,124,427 13,691,487 -40.7 3,237 5 2,510 379,214,172 Paramount
7 The Hangover 6,461,370 8,177,272 -21.0 2,285 8 2,828 247,073,766 Warner Bros.
8 The Proposal 6,379,926 8,289,707 -23.0 2,779 6 2,296 140,042,989 Buena Vista
9 Public Enemies 4,352,650 7,748,235 -43.8 2,291 4 1,900 88,278,880 Universal
10 Brüno 2,832,870 8,318,385 -65.9 1,895 3 1,495 56,629,390 Universal
11 Up 1,687,307 3,172,014 -46.8 1,070 9 1,577 283,690,231 Buena Vista
12 (500) Days of Summer 1,635,772 834,501 96.0 85 2 19,244 3,009,526 Fox Searchlight
13 The Hurt Locker 1,438,355 740,224 94.3 238 5 6,044 4,015,070 Summit
14 My Sister's Keeper 1,341,466 2,828,367 -52.6 1,258 5 1,066 45,082,015 Warner Bros.
15 I Love You, Beth Cooper 719,468 2,766,863 -74.0 730 3 986 13,377,333 Fox
16 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smith. 649,994 759,571 -14.4 396 10 1,641 173,018,239 Fox
17 The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 491,478 889,259 -44.7 371 7 1,325 63,838,453 Sony
18 Star Trek 439,445 690,639 -36.4 307 12 1,431 254,020,378 Paramount
19 Moon 391,260 525,740 -25.6 201 7 1,947 3,370,366 Sony Classics
20 Under the Sea 3D 331,039 306,390 8.0 40 24 8,276 13,602,505 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 110,054,610 $ 125,696,712 -12.4
Top 10 138,205,853 150,389,463 -8.1
Top 20 147,331,437 156,632,042 -5.9
Top 20 vs. 2008 147,331,437 177,634,686 -17.1

Last Updated: July 27, 2009 at 4:20PM ET