Zac whacks Hannah with $24 mil opening

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Warner Bros.' comedy fantasy "17 Again" ruled the domestic boxoffice during the weekend with an estimated $24.1 million bow built heavily on support from young female fans of rising star Zac Efron.

Universal's Russell Crowe-toplined "State of Play" took the session's silver medal despite a soft $14.1 million opening, and Lionsgate's action sequel "Crank: High Voltage" debuted in sixth with only $6.5 million.

Disney's tween-girls magnet "Hannah Montana: The Movie" was the top second-week holdover, dropping 61% during its sophomore session to register $12.7 million in fourth place for a 10-day cume of $56.1 million. And Warners' dark comedy "Observe and Report" finished seventh during its second weekend as the Seth Rogen starrer dropped 63% from opening grosses for a $4.1 million frame and an $18.7 million cume.

Industrywide, the $107 million weekend represented a 14% improvement on the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

Year to date, 2009 is pacing 8% ahead of last year at $2.73 billion. The year-over-year improvement appears more modest than it might as the year-ago period boasted an extra winter weekend.

In a limited bow, IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's fact-based drama "American Violet" unspooled in 61 locations and rang up $257,114, or a sturdy $4,215 per site.

Sony Pictures Classics debuted its Broadway documentary "Every Little Step" in eight theaters to register $72,616, or an auspicious $9,077 per venue.

Story Island's Michael Caine starrer "Is Anybody There?" opened with six playdates and grossed $45,112, or a solid $7,519 per engagement.

And IFC Films bowed the Middle East drama "Lemon Tree" in a pair of New York locations, grossing $14,100, or $7,050 per venue.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, SPC added 30 playdates for its baseball drama "Sugar" and rang up $110,079, or a thin $2,293 per engagement, with a cume of $327,844.

And Focus Features' Spanish-language drama "Sin Nombre" added 15 locations for a total of 80, grossing $256,813, or an acceptable $3,210 per site, with a $1.2 million cume.

Directed by Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down"), "17" drew opening-night audiences that were 76% female, with 43% under 18.

"I'm very impressed that we held well on Saturday after a big Friday, even though a lot of fan-based movies drop after the first day," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said.

Efron built his fan base from a starring role in Disney's "High School Musical" franchise. "17" was produced by New Line Cinema for less than $45 million.

"Play" — adapted by Universal partner Working Title from a BBC miniseries — was the best-reviewed film among the weekend's wide releases, with RottenTomatoes counting 81% favorable reviews among critics tracked on its site. But its older-skewing profile didn't suggest a big opening.

Helmed by Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland"), "Play" attracted audiences that were 55% female, with a big 75% of patrons over 35.

"The picture outperformed expectations from the prerelease tracking," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "Also, adult films to tend to stick around longer, and it's got a good start overseas."

"Play" rang up $2 million-plus in three foreign territories, with a solid bow expected in the U.K. this weekend. The international coin could be key as "Play" was produced for an estimated $60 million.

Co-financed by Lakeshore Entertainment, "Voltage" audiences were 64% male, with 60% of patrons under 25. About 31% of total support came from black and Hispanic moviegoers.

"Based on the tracking, we were expecting a bigger weekend gross," Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said.

"Voltage" stars Jason Statham and was co-directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who also helmed the franchise original. The first "Crank" film opened in September 2006 with $10.5 million and grossed $27.8 million domestically.

Looking ahead to the final frame before summer tentpoles arrive, four pics are set to bow wide this weekend.

Disney gets a jump on the pack, unspooling its James Earl Jones-narrated documentary "Earth" on Wednesday. Friday openers include Paramount's DreamWorks-produced "The Soloist," starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx; Sony's urban-skewing thriller "Obsessed," starring Idris Elba and Ali Larter; and Universal's drama about bare-knuckle brawling "Fighting," starring Terrence Howard and Channing Tatum. (partialdiff)
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