'17 Again' easily takes boxoffice crown

Zac Efron comedy earns $24.1 mil; 'State of Play' at No. 2

'Furious' holds fast atop overseas boxoffice

Warner Bros.' comedy fantasy "17 Again" ruled the domestic boxoffice this 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, while Lionsgate's action sequel "Crank: High Voltage" debuted in sixth with just $6.5 million.

Disney's tween-girls magnet "Hannah Montana: The Movie" was the top second-week holdover, dropping 61% in 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 over its second weekend as the Seth Rogen starrer dropped 63% from opening grosses for a $4.1 million frame and $18.7 million cume.

Industrywide, the $107 million weekend represented a 14% improvement over 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 this weekend, IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's fact-based drama "American Violet" unspooled in 61 locations and ran 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 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 rung 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 comprised 76% of females, with 43% under age 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.

Pic producer Jennifer Gibgot touted Efron's "perfect combination of heartthrob status and amazing talent."

The young topliner built his fan base from a starring role in Disney's "High School Musical" film and TV features. "17" was produced by New Line Cinema for $23 million.

"Play" -- adapted by Uni partner Working Title from a British television miniseries -- was the best-reviewed film among the weekend's wide releases, with RottenTomatoes counting 81% favorable reviews among critics tracked on its Web site. But its older-skewing profile never suggested a big opening.

Helmed by Kevin Macdonald ("Last King of Scotland"),"Play" attracted audiences comprised 55% of females, with a big 75% of its patrons over age 35.

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

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

Co-financed by Lakeshore Entertainment, "Voltage" drew audiences comprised 64% of males, with 60% of patrons under age 25. Some 31% of support came from 31% blacks and 26% 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 overall domestically.

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