'Smithsonian' wins the weekend battle

'Terminator' finishes No. 2 in long holiday frame

Fox's action comedy "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" fought to the top of a competitive heap during the long Memorial Day weekend, opening with a rousing $70 million in estimated domestic boxoffice.

Warner Bros.' sci-fi actioner "Terminator Salvation" -- the fourth "Terminator" pic and the first in six years -- performed ably, if unspectacularly, with $53.8 million in second place on the four-day frame and a $67.2 cume since bowing Thursday. Paramount's comedy spoof "Dance Flick" from the Wayans brothers debuted about as expected with $13.1 million, good for fifth place on the holiday-stretched session.

Sony's Tom Hanks starrer "Angels & Demons" fell 53% from its opening grosses in its latest Friday-Sunday outing, and through Monday rang up $27.7 million in fourth place. The book-based thriller boasts an 11-day cume of $87.8 million, while its over-performance abroad has Sony projecting the pic to hit $300 million worldwide tally by Wednesday.

Industrywide, the weekend's $223 million notched a 2% increase over the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI. That makes eight of the last nine sessions in which the domestic boxoffice has marked a year-over-year weekend uptick.

Year to date, 2009 is pacing 8% ahead of the same portion of last year at $3.72 billion. The improvement would be even more dramatic if not for seasonal calendar fluctuations yielding one less weekend in the current boxoffice year.

Among the latest limited bows, Sony Pictures Classics' romantic comedy "Easy Virtue" -- starring Colin Firth and Jessica Biel -- unspooled in 10 theaters and grossed $146,140. That represented an impressive $14,614 per venue.

SPC debuted the dramatic comedy "O'Horten" in eight locations and grossed $32,937, or a pleasing $4,117 per site.

And Disney opened a documentary about the songwriting team behind "The Sound of Music" -- "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story" -- with $19,400 from five playdates, or $3,874 per engagement.

Summit Entertainment broadened its con-men dramedy "The Brothers Bloom" by 48 locations to a total of 52 and grossed $528,000, or a solid $10,140 per site. The cume hit $651,388 ahead of an expansion into the top 50 markets on Friday.

IFC Films expanded its Juliette Binoche starrer "Summer House" by 25 theaters for a total of 27 and grossed $252,450, or a sturdy $9,350 per venue, with a cume of $327,187.

Rated PG, "Smithsonian" audiences were 51% female, with 48% of its support coming from family patrons.

"Being the only PG movie in the marketplace was really significant," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson said. "The audience also really responded to its being a comedy, so it was a great combination."

"Smithsonian" marked Stiller's biggest live-action bow, besting his $46.1 million opening with 2004's "Meet the Fockers."

The original "Museum" opened in December 2006 with a sturdy $30.4 million over its first three days but delivered a much more impressive $251 million over its entire domestic run. The "Smithsonian" bow included $5.4 million from 160 Imax screens, or a strong $34,000 per location.

"The No. 1 location for the picture in the country was the Imax theater at the Smithsonian," Imax Filmed Entertainment chief Greg Foster said.

Directed by Shawn Levy, who also helmed the franchise original, "Smithsonian" bowed simultaneously in 93 international territories. Partly shot in Vancouver, "Smithsonian" was produced for $125 million, thanks to Canadian tax breaks.

Starring relative newcomer Sam Worthington and Christian Bale in his first role since last summer's blockbuster "The Dark Knight," "Salvation" drew audiences that were 70% male, with 58% of patrons 25 and older. The pic's bowing on the lower end of expectations had some industryites wondering if Bale's much-publicized tantrum on the set of "Salvation" hurt. But studio execs said they were delighted with the sequel's still sizable debut.

"Our results were excellent," Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said. "This was a great result for any film."

The first weekend for "Salvation" -- which received mixed reviews from critics -- was tops among "Terminator" pics, besting the $44 million debut of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" over a three-day frame in July 2003. The bow gave helmer McG a personal best, outpacing his $40.1 million opening for 2000's "Charlie's Angels."

Produced by Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek's Halcyon for upward of $180 million, "Salvation" was a negative pickup for Warners and Sony.

Sony will distribute the film in most international territories beginning June 5.

"Dance Flick" played best in urban theaters with only limited crossover into broader appeal. The cast of the PG-13 pic includes Damon Wayans Jr., Craig Wayans, Shoshana Bush and Essence Atkins, with Damien Dante Wayans getting a first feature directing credit.

Sony execs were over the moon the impressive global campaign by "Angels."

"We're thrilled with our results," Sony worldwide distribution president Rory Bruer said. "To be at this point in less than two weeks is a tremendous achievement."

Looking ahead, two wide openers are set to unspool Friday. Disney will bow the 3-D animated feature "Up" from Pixar, while Universal debuts the Sam Raimi-helmed horror pic "Drag Me to Hell."
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