Disney pic wins weekend with $34 million

Disney’s “Hannah Montana: The Movie” far surpassed expectations in opening to an estimated $34 million, revving past “Fast and Furious” to lead the biggest Easter weekend ever at the domestic box office.

“Hannah’s” massive Friday gross of $17.3 million and enormous drop on Saturday shows that Disney effectively marketed the pic to make going on opening day a must for Miley Cyrus’ legion of fans. Also, Easter weekend usually sees a heavy Friday turnout.

Universal holdover “Fast and Furious” downshifted to No. 2 domestically, declining an OK 59% with an estimated $28.8 million; cume is $118 million. But it easily placed No. 1 at the international box office with $46.5 million from 5,118 runs in 52 markets for a cume of $91 million. Worldwide tally of $209 million means the fourth installment has already earned more than two of the previous pics in the franchise.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ Seth Rogen starrer “Observe and Report” came in lower than expected, grossing an estimated $11.1 million from 2,727 to place No. 4.

Thanks to the one-two punch of kid-friendly “Hannah Montana” and actioner “Fast and Furious,” studios wager that domestic B.O. revenues were around $130 million for the frame, up 14% over Easter weekend in 2008. Through Sunday, admissions are up 12% year-to-date — an unheard-of spike for this time of year. Revenues are up 13%.

Among this year’s releases, five films have already jumped the $100 million mark domestically vs. just one, “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who,” during the same time period last year. In addition to “Fast and Furious,” the $100 million-plus club includes Sony’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” ($143.2 million), DreamWorks Animation/Paramount’s “Monsters vs. Aliens” ($141 million), Fox’s “Taken” ($140 million) and Warner Bros.’ “Watchmen” ($105.9 million).

“Fast and Furious” was on a tear overseas, scoring the best weekend number of the year to date and opening at No. 1 in each of its 18 new territories. Pic has an international cume of $91 million.

After “Hannah Montana,” the two other new wide releases didn’t have such a rosy Easter at the domestic B.O.

With “Observe and Report,” Rogen delivered his lowest opening outside of “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” which opened to $10.1 million last year on its way to cuming $31.5 million domestically.

Warners said the R-rated film won’t be a financial loser since it was produced for less than $18 million. In its marketing campaign, WB obscured the pic’s dark themes by portraying it strictly as a comedy. Legendary Pictures co-produced and co-financed the film.

Fox’s “Dragonball: Evolution,” managed only No. 8 in its domestic debut, grossing an estimated $4.7 million from 2,181 theaters. Studio had limited expectations for the film, which was narrowly targeted to boys.

Fantasy adventure saw more business overseas, grossing $10.6 million at 4,500 in 35 markets for a foreign cume of $37 million, led by China with $8.4 million. (Pic opened abroad first.) Weekend tally was led by Spain at $2 million and Italy at $1.3 million. Worldwide cume is $41.7 million.

Domestically, all attention was focused on unexpectedly strong debut of “Hannah Montana” since various tracking services had suggested it would open in the high teens. Distributors say tracking has been off consistently in recent months (though tracking kid interest in pics is particularly tricky). Last weekend, “Fast and Furious” likewise opened far ahead of expectations.

“Hannah” — also featuring the co-stars of the Disney Channel TV series, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jason Earles and Emily Osment — delivered the second-best Easter weekend opening of all time after 2006’s “Scary Movie 4″ ($40.2 million). Pic marks the biggest April bow in Disney’s history and the best opening ever for a live-action G-rated pic.

Between her TV show, music and two films, the 16-year-old Cyrus has become the poster kid for Disney synergy. Her first pic was the 3-D concert docu “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour,” which opened last year to $31.1 million on its way to cuming a boffo $65.3 million in a limited domestic run, all on the strength of girls.

With “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” Walt Disney prexy of domestic distribution Chuck Viane said director Peter Chelsom and scribe Daniel Berendsen delivered the movie that Cyrus’ fans wanted to see. Audience was 79% female, with 60% between the ages of 2 and 17. Moms and some dads filled out the rest of the aud.

“Hannah Montana” dropped 40% from Friday to Saturday, one of the bigger drops in recent memory, but Viane said it speaks to how avid Cyrus’ fans were.

“It shows in how crazed her fanbase was to be there opening day,” Viane said.

Disney won’t open “Hannah Montana” for another three weeks overseas. It will compete with a comedy from another Disney-groomed star, Zac Efron, in “17 Again,” which opened in the U.K. over the weekend, a week ahead of its domestic debut. Pic grossed $3.75 million in Blighty to place No. 3. (Warner Bros. distribs “17 Again” in the U.S.)

Disney’s “Race to Witch Mountain” continued to see action overseas, grossing $5.2 million at 2,075 in 23 markets. Pic, which has cumed $15 million internationally and $62 million domestically, is still early in its run overseas.

As Cyrus is to Disney, “The Fast and the Furious” franchise is to U.

The fourth outing has re-energized the franchise by reuniting the original cast of the first pic.

In the U.S., a significant part of the film’s success is its appeal to Hispanic moviegoers. It’s likewise doing well in Mexico and South America, but it has strength across the board overseas. U believes the pic has a strong shot at reaching $450 million worldwide.

In the U.K., “Fast and Furious” grossed $7.5 million from 362 runs, claiming 33% of the market. Friday’s gross of $3.4 million repped the best opening day of the year. Russia ponied up $8.5 million at 545, the best showing of any territory. France turned in $6 million from 485 runs, twice as much as the opening for any of the first three films.

In the United Arab Emirates, “Fast and Furious” secured the biggest opening of all time at $1.1 million.

Among the previous titles, “2 Fast 2 Furious” grossed $236.4 million worldwide, while the original “The Fast and the Furious” cumed $207 million. “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” grossed $158 million worldwide.

Like “Fast and Furious,” DreamWorks Animation/Paramount holdover “Monsters vs. Aliens” saw good traffic as it benefited from kids out of school for spring break. Pic declined 31% in its third sesh to an estimated $22.6 million from 4,136 runs; cume is $141 million.

Overseas, “Monsters” grossed $26.5 million from 7,400 runs in 48 markets for a foreign cume of $92.7 million.

Worldwide tally of $233.7 million in less than a month points to the advantage exhibitors and studios gain in being able to charge a premium for 3-D runs. Film is showing strong traction in the U.K., up 13% over the previous weekend to $4.4 million. Spain is even better: “Monsters” was up 18% to $3.3 million. Toon was down only 15% in Australia to $2.1 million and 4% in France to $1.9 million.

Nicolas Cage sci-fi thriller “Knowing” continued to build its worldwide cume, grossing $6.7 million domestically from 2,925 runs and $11 million from 2,284 in 27 markets for a worldwide haul of $108.4 million.

At the domestic specialty box office, Overture’s “Sunshine Cleaning” placed No. 12 for the weekend in its fifth sesh, grossing $1.8 million from 598 runs for a cume of $7.2 million. Per-location average was $3,017.

Among openers, Abramorama’s documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” about the Canadian heavy metal band, opened to $34,802 from three theaters for a per-location average of $11,601. According to estimates, that’s the highest per-theater average of the weekend.

Alec Baldwin dramedy “Lymelife” grossed $30,000 from four locations in its debut for a per-location average of $7,500. Screen Media is distrib.

In its second weekend, Sony Pictures Classics’ “Sugar” grossed $114,676 from 18 runs for a per-location average of $6,371 and cume of $200,051.

Focus Features holdover “Sin nombre” did solid business in its third sesh, grossing $324,279 from 65 theaters for a per-location average of $4,989 and cume of $797,741. Roadside Attractions’ “Goodbye Solo” posted a per-location average of $6,136 in its third week as it grossed $67,500 from 11 theaters for a cume of $161,695.

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