‘Museum’ edges ‘Terminator’ Friday

Fox sequel nets $15.3 million at box office

In a box office face-off between a family and a male-demo sequel, Fox’s PG rated “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” took the first Friday of the Memorial Day frame with an estimated $15.3 million while Warner Bros.’ franchise actioner “Terminator Salvation” followed with $14.9 million.

A follow-up to the December 2006 holiday hit “Night at the Museum,” “Battle of the Smithsonian,” playing at 4,096 sites, easily posted the highest opening day ever for a PG-rated Memorial Day weekend release; besting the $13.9 million posted by the 2005 animated pic “Madagascar.”

“Battle of the Smithsonian” charts as the highest opening day ever for both helmer Shawn Levy and leading thesp Ben Stiller (among his live-action credits), edging out their previous $12.1 million record earned by the first “Night at the Museum.”

In its second day at 3,530 theaters, “Terminator Salvation” raised its domestic cume to $28.3 million, pacing 16% ahead of the running cume of 2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” which earned $24.3 million in its first two days at the box office. Similar to “Rise of the Machines,” “Terminator Salvation” has a five-day opening stretch at the box office with the exception that “Machines” bowed on a Wednesday and “Salvation” on a Wednesday midnight.

Unlike previous “Terminator” chapters which headlined Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Bale receives top-billing in “Terminator Salvation” while Schwarzenegger’s likeness makes a virtual appearance in the film.

In recent years at the Memorial Day weekend box office, one particular frosh tentpole has typically attracted mass multiplex traffic, i.e. last year’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” This year’s respective split between families and males for “Battle of the Smithsonian” and “Terminator Salvation” is reminiscent to Memorial Day 2005 when two prolific openers catered to two different crowds: DreamWorks’ family toon “Madagascar” and Adam Sandler’s PG-13 guy pic “The Longest Yard.” While the previous weekend champ “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” won the holiday frame, “Longest Yard” and “Madagascar” teetered the second place spot. Over three days, “The Longest Yard” earned slightly more than “Madagascar,” $47.6 million to $47.2 million, but for the four day Friday through Monday, “Madagascar” beat “Yard,” $61 million to $58.6 million.

Despite the Friday win for “Battle of Smithsonian,” “Terminator Salvation’s” theater average trumped the Ben Stiller pic, $4,206 to $3,735.

Friday’s third wide release, Paramount’s spoof “Dance Flick” from the Wayans Brothers slotted fifth with $3.9 million off 2,450.

The new competition pushed last weekend’s No. 1 pic “Angels and Demons” from Sony to third place yesterday. The Ron Howard pic grossed $6 million off 3,527, down 63%, for an eight-day cume of $66.1 million. Par’s “Star Trek” re-boot took fourth with $5.8 million off 4,053, down 51%, for a running cume of $167.4 million in its third Friday.