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'Up' soars to top with $68.2-million opening weekend

'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian' falls only to No. 2, showing the strength of family films this year.

June 01, 2009|Ben Fritz

Family movies are proving to be Hollywood's most consistent performers this year.

With Walt Disney's Co.'s "Up" scoring a solid $68.2-million opening and Fox's "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" at No. 2 despite the competition, PG-rated films once again topped the weekend box office in the U.S. and Canada.

Although older-skewing films have proved a mixed bag, with at least one disappointment such as "Terminator Salvation" and "Watchmen" for every hit such as "Star Trek" and "Fast & Furious," almost all of the year's family movies have opened strong and lasted long, including "Coraline," "Hotel for Dogs" and "Monsters vs. Aliens."

And it's not just because parents are eager to get their kids out of the house. Last weekend, 52% of "Night at the Museum" attendees weren't families. "Up" played even more diversely, with 69% of ticket buyers over age 12.

"Part of what was so unusual about this movie is that auditoriums were packed at 11 in the morning and 11 at night," said Chuck Viane, Disney's president of domestic distribution.

"Up" marks the 10th straight box-office success for Pixar, though it's not among the studio's best openings. That honor belongs to 2004's "The Incredibles" and 2003's "Finding Nemo," both of which opened to just over $70 million. "Up" is a more modest performer after accounting for several years of ticket price inflation and the fact that 41% of the 3,766 theaters it was shown in were digital 3-D and most of those charged more.

Because of a combination of higher ticket prices and greater audience interest, the average 3-D theater for "Up" earned more than twice as much as standard ones.

Given all that, "Up" seems to stand somewhere between 2007's "Ratatouille," which opened to $47 million, and last year's "Wall-E," which started off at $63.1 million, in terms of audience popularity.

All of Pixar's films in the last decade have gone on to gross more than $200 million both domestically and internationally and "Up," which launched in Russia this weekend but starts the rest of its foreign rollout in July, appears likely to do the same. Audiences gave the film an A-plus, according to CinemaScore, which surveys filmgoers at theaters. It's the first movie this year to earn a perfect grade.

Although many had expected "Up" to vanquish last weekend's No. 1 movie, "Night at the Museum," the Fox family flick managed to drop a reasonable 53% and brought its 10-day gross to $105.3 million, according to studio estimates. That's more than Sony's adult thriller "Angels & Demons" has earned in 17 days.

It's also significantly more than "Terminator Salvation," which plunged 62% on its second weekend despite the absence of new action films and has sold a total of $90.7 million worth of tickets domestically.

The only other new movie this weekend was "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi's horror flick "Drag Me to Hell," which grossed a disappointing $16.6 million. That's more than 20% less than "The Strangers," a horror film without a big-name director, made on the same weekend last year.

The overseas box office continued to be dominated by "Battle of the Smithsonian" and "Angels & Demons." Fox's family sequel grossed $37.2 million in its second weekend, helped by a strong $7.4-million opening in China.

Sony's Tom Hanks thriller, meanwhile, grossed $32.9 million on its third weekend and brought its international total to an astonishing $251.7 million. Despite the film's relatively weak domestic performance, it has the biggest worldwide total ticket sales of any movie this year at $356.4 million.

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ben.fritz@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE

Sales in the U.S. and Canada:

*--* -- Movie 3-day gross % change Total Days in -- (studio) (millions) from last (millions) release weekend 1 Up $68.2 n/a $68.2 3 -- (Disney/Pixar) 2 Night at the Museum: $25.5 -53% $105.3 10 -- Battle of the Smithsonian -- (Fox) 3 Drag Me to Hell $16.6 n/a $16.6 3 -- (Universal/Ghost House) 4 Terminator Salvation $16.1 -62% $90.7 11 -- (Warner Bros. / Halcyon) 5 Star Trek $12.8 -44% $209.5 24 -- (Paramount) 6 Angels and Demons $11.2 -48% $104.8 17 -- (Sony) 7 Dance Flick $4.9 -54% $19.2 10 -- (Paramount) 8 X-Men Origins: $3.9 -52% $170.9 31 Wolverine -- (Fox) 9 Ghosts of $1.9 -50% $50 31 Girlfriends Past -- (Warner Bros. / New Line) 10 Obsessed $0.665 -66% $67.5 38 -- (Sony / Screen Gems) *--*

Industry totals

*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $167 -1% $4.1 +14% *--*

Note: A movie may be shown on more than one screen at each theater.

Sources: Times research and Hollywood.com Box Office

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