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 an estimated $34M opening for Hannah over the Friday-to-Sunday period 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 $10,904 from 3,118 theaters. It was the second biggest opening ever over the Easter holiday frame trailing only 2006’s Scary Movie ($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 is estimated by Disney to drop by 38% to $6.4M. More than half of the weekend tally 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 59% to an estimated $28.8M 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 $118M 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 an estimated $46.5M this weekend from 50 territories to boost the international sum to $91M. The global gross now stands at an incredible $209M 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 an estimated $22.6M in its third weekend. Off just 31%, the PG-rated smash posted a great hold and boosted its total to a stellar $141M in 17 days. Monsters is now on the same course as two recent toon sequels that made a killing running only 4% behind the pace of 2006’s Ice Age: The Meltdown and 3% 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 26%.
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, according to estimates. The Warner Bros. release averaged a mild $4,085 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 18% to an estimated $6.7M for Summit boosting the cume to a solid $68M. Paramount’s comedy I Love You, Man slid by just 17% to an estimated $6.4M for a $59M total to date. Dropping 40% to an estimated $5.7M was The Haunting in Connecticut which has taken in $46.3M for Lionsgate so far.
Failing to connect with moviegoers was the new sci-fi action pic Dragonball Evolution which limped to a $4.7M debut, according to estimates, putting it in eighth place. The PG-rated film was aimed at young boys but was rejected averaging a weak $2,132 from 2,181 locations for Fox.
Rounding out the top ten were Miramax’s Adventureland with an estimated $3.4M and Universal’s Duplicity with an estimated $3M. The theme park comedy fell by 40% in its second weekend and lifted its ten-day tally to a disappointing $11.5M 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 an estimated $126.4M which was up a scorching 63% from last year when Prom Night opened in the top spot with $20.8M; and up a solid 34% from last year’s Easter frame which fell in mid-March when Horton Hears a Who stayed at number one with $24.6M.