Musical brushes box office history

New Line’s “Hairspray” is showing a lot of bounce and holding power, becoming only the third recent musical to cross the $100 million mark at the domestic box office after “Chicago” and “Dreamgirls.”

“Hairspray” is the 10th musical ever to hit that tally, which it did over the weekend. The list includes “The Sound of Music” and “Grease,” as well as such animated musicals as “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.”

The key to its success: Tween girls, who are every bit as important as fanboys to a film’s success. That demo has turned “Hairspray” into a genuine hit and also helped propel Disney Channel’s “High School Musical 2″ to boffo ratings over the weekend. (Tween fave Zac Efron stars in both tuners.)

But that doesn’t mean the “Hairspray” demo is just young or just female. According to New Line, the audience split has been about 65% female and 35% male.

In its past two frames, it’s enjoyed the lowest decline of any of the top 10 films. Over the weekend, “Hairspray” grossed $4.3 million for a cume of $100.8 million, a 30% decline from the previous frame.

“We knew from before the picture was even released how much fun it was,” said New Line prexy of distribution David Tuckerman. “But we also knew the challenge was to get males to come too, which they did. The movie just delivered.”

But the repeat business is coming from teenage and tween girls.

“It’s the amazing hold picture of the summer,” a competing studio distribution topper said. “No one could have foreseen that.”

The movie’s box office success also was fueled by positive reviews. “For lack of a better word, it was contagious,” one New Line exec said.

The studio is also hosting “Hairspray” sing-alongs at 100 theaters across the country, which so far account for about $2 million in box office receipts.

Historical view

Musicals, a Hollywood staple through the 1960s, have become an up-and-down genre since then, often unable to post blockbuster numbers at the box office.

There are exceptions: On the animation side, “The Lion King” grossed more than $312 domestically, and “Aladdin” more than $217 million.

As for live-action films, “Grease,” released in 1978, is the highest-grossing musical of all time, raking in more than $188 million domestically. (If adjusted for inflation, “The Sound of Music” would easily come out on top.)

Best pic Oscar winner “Chicago” comes in No. 2, with a domestic haul of $170.7 million. Film, released in 2002, helped to give studios renewed hope that musicals could do strong business.

But several titles released after that didn’t sing to expectations, including “The Producers,” which grossed $19.5 million domestically, and “Rent,” which grossed $29 million.

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