Memorial Day weekend is typically one of the biggest for the box office, but this year's was more like a Hollywood buzz kill.
Fox's "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" got off to a solid start. Warner Bros.' "Terminator Salvation" did not. Overall, ticket sales for the four-day weekend were up just 1.7% from a year earlier, according to Hollywood.com Box Office.
"The box office definitely did not expand," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution. "I don't think that's an indication we have to be concerned, but I think it's notable."
Box-office revenue for the year through April was helped by a combination of big-budget event films scheduled earlier than usual, such as "Fast & Furious" and "Monsters vs. Aliens," and with smaller films that performed better than expected, including "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and "Taken."
But since the summer movie season started May 1 with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," the boom times have nearly evaporated. Box-office receipts through the end of April were up more than 17%. Since then, they have risen only 4.5%.
With the exception of "Star Trek," this year's summer event movies have all performed worse than those that opened on the same date last year.
The "Night at the Museum" and "Terminator" sequels combined didn't even match the opening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" over Memorial Day weekend last year.
"It was much easier to beat 2008 in the first quarter, but last summer was really strong and these comparisons are getting very tough," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office for Hollywood.com Box Office.
By any measure, however, "Terminator Salvation" had a relatively weak opening. The $200-million fourth installment in the 25-year-old sci-fi action series, financed by Halcyon Co. and distributed by Warner Bros., grossed $53.8 million in the U.S. and Canada for the four-day weekend and $67.2 million since its opening Thursday. Its $43-million gross Friday through Sunday is the softest for any big-budget action movie this year and even less than "Terminator 3" grossed when it opened in 2002.
Although he said he was pleased with the opening, Fellman noted that the PG-13 rating for "Terminator Salvation," the first for a "Terminator" film, didn't draw young audiences. Only 14% of attendees were under age 18.
"Night at the Museum" grossed a much healthier $70 million, more in four days than "Salvation" earned in five.
The film received a less enthusiastic response internationally, where it launched in 93 foreign countries excluding Canada and grossed $50.1 million through Sunday. In many markets it placed No. 2 to "Angels & Demons," which has grossed nearly $200 million internationally in just 10 days.
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
*--* Sales in the U.S. and Canada: Movie 4-day gross Perce Total Days in release ntage chang e (3-da y (studio) (millions) compa (millions) rison )
1 Night $70 n/a $70 4 at the Museum: Battle of the Smithso nian (Fox)
2 Termina $53.8 n/a $67.2 5 tor Salvati on (Warner Bros. / Halcyon )
3 Star $29.4 -47% $191 19 Trek (Paramo unt)
4 Angels $27.7 -53% $87.8 11 & Demons (Sony)
5 Dance $13.1 n/a $13.1 4 Flick (Paramo unt)
6 X-Men $10.1 -46% $165.4 25 Origins : Wolveri ne (Fox)
7 Ghosts $4.8 -43% $47 25 of Girlfri ends Past (Warner Bros. / New Line)
8 Obsessed $2.5 -57% $66.4 32 (Sony / Screen Gems)
9 Monster $1.9 -55% $193.5 60 s vs. Aliens (Paramo unt / DreamWo rks Animati on)
10 17 $1.3 -70% $60.6 39 Again (Warner Bros. / New Line) *--*
*--* 4-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $223 +2% $3.9 +14% *--*
*--* Note: A movie may be shown on more than one screen at each theater. Sources: Times research and Hollywood.com Box Office Los Angeles Times *--*