Fox sequel nabs $53.5 million at box office

Twentieth Century Fox’s sequel “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” won the domestic war against Warner Bros.’ reboot “Terminator: Salvation” at the holiday box office.

“Museum 2″ grossed an estimated $53.5 million from 4,096 theaters Friday through Sunday, while “T4″ grossed an estimated $43 million from 3,530 runs. Opening Thursday to $13.4 million, “T4’s” cume is $56.4 million.

Four-day totals for the long Memorial Day weekend won’t be released until Monday. But even with Monday’s grosses yet to be factored in, “Museum 2″ appears to have the race sewn up.

Box observers had expected the contest between “Museum 2″ and “T4″ to be much closer, despite the fact that one is a family film, the other, a sci-fi actioner.

Benefiting from being the first family summer tentpole, “Museum 2″ reps the best live action opening for a Ben Stiller pic.

Overseas, “Museum 2″ also made a strong debut, grossing $50.1 million from 8,100 playdates in 93 markets. That puts the film’s worldwide opening at roughly $103 million through Sunday. “Museum 2″ came in No. 2 overseas, beat by Sony holdover “Angels and Demons” ($60.4 million).

“Museum 2″ saw a boffo 30% jump Friday to Saturday. Also, 52% of the audience were non-family. Film was able to overcome a box office hit in Los Angeles and Denver as sports fans in both cities tuned in to the NBA basketball playoffs.

Sequel easily bested the $43 million opening of “Night at the Museum” over the Christmas holiday in 2006.

In a not-so-good sign for “T4,” “Museum 2″ beat it on Friday. Fan-driven pics usually do better on Fridays, while family films do bigger business on Saturday and Sunday.

However, “T4’s” five-day opening number should be in the vicinity of the five-day opening of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” which clocked in at $68 million.

“T4″–directed by McG and toplining Christian Bale–was produced by Halcyon. Project was a negative pickup for Warners, which invested roughly $50 million in the reboot (not including marketing costs).

Sony, which is handling “T4″ overseas, invested roughly $75 million. “T4″ doesn’t open at the international box office for another two weeks.

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