‘Hangover II’ Biggest Comedy Bow of All Time at $137.4 Million

Courtesy of Warner Bros

UPDATED: The R-rated comedy helps fuel biggest Memorial Day weekend on record; ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ also drives the boom with $68 million.

Shattering numerous records, Warner Bros.’ The Hangover Part II grossed $137.4 million in its five-day launch at the domestic box office. The sequel helped fuel the best Memorial Day weekend on record, and grabbed the best opening ever for a comedy, R-rated or otherwise.

Overseas, Hangover opened to $60.3 million from 40 countries--thee times higher than the first Hangover and bringing the sequel's global bow to almost $200 million. Hangover grossed $16.7 million in the U.K., the best ever launch for a U.S. comedy, as well as the top opening of 2011, while it earned $11.9 milion in Australia.

DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s 3D toon Kung Fu Panda 2 also contributed to the boom, grossing roughly $67 million in its first five days (like Hangover, Panda opened on Thursday). However, only 45% of the gross came from 3D screens, further fanning worries that domestic moviegoers are growing weary of the format.

Kung Fu Panda impressed overseas, where audiences in territories like Russia and China can't get enough 3D. The toon grossed a mighty $55 million in only 11 territories. In seven territories, it scored the best opening ever for an animated title and in China, scored the biggest opening of all time for a foreign film in grossing $16 million. 

In the U.S., the specialty business also soared, thanks to Woody Allen’s holdover Midnight in Paris and new entry The Tree of Life, from Terrence Malick and produced by River Road.

Tree of Life grossed an estimated $488,920 over the four-day holiday weekend from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a per screen average of $122,230--an all-time high for a Fox Searchlight title. For the Friday-Sunday stretch, the Brad Pitt-Sean Penn starrer grossed $372,920 for a per location average of $93,230, according to Rentrak.

Placing No. 7, Midnight—which debuted last weekend to a per location average of $99,834—grossed $2.6 million over the four-day holiday weekend from 58 theaters for a stellar cume of $3.5 million and location average of $45,081.

The overall uptick in theater traffic at the domestic box office was a welcome respite for the film business, which has suffered one of the worst box slumps in history. Grosses for Memorial Day weekend are  projected to reach $270 million, easily surpassing the $254 million earned in 2007.

From Todd Phillips, Hangover grabbed the best opening ever for a comedy, besting the $85.7 million earned by Bruce Almighty over Memorial Day weekend in 2003, as well as the biggest Saturday ever for a comedy ($29.7 million). Hangover's Friday-Sunday tally was $86.4 million.

Hangover and Universal’s Bridesmaids set new benchmarks for the playing power of R-rated comedies. Even with competition from Hangover, Bridesmaids held well over the weekend, declining only 27% to an estimated $16.4 million to place No. 4. On Monday, Bridesmaids is expected to earn another $4.4 million for a domestic cume of $89.4 million.

Hangover should grab the largest five-day opening ever for any R-rated pic. Previous best was The Matrix Reloaded ($134.3 million) and The Passion of the Christ ($125.2 million).

Hangover is a sizeable victory for Warners and co-financing partner Legendary Pictures, and delivered the studio its best Memorial Weekend ever (Terminator Salvation was the previous crown holder at $65.3 million). 

“This blows everything out of the water. It’s pretty amazing stuff,” Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said. “Moviegoers love all the characters, and they love the story.”

Hangover is the first title in months to appeal heavily to younger moviegoers, who represented 54% of the audience. 

Moviegoers delivered rave reviews for both Hangover and Kung Fu Panda, which drew an A- CinemaScore and A CinemaScore, respectively.

Families turned out in force for Kung Fu Panda, which return Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Lucy Liu to lead the voice cast.

About 45% of the total gross came 3D screens, although if the toon had played in Imax theaters, 3D grosses would have likely repped 55% of the total, according to DreamWorks. Until now, a film could count on getting 55% to 65% of its gross from 3D locations.

“We’re thrilled to have Kung Fu Panda be part of this record-breaking weekend. We came in at high end of expecations. We played very strong to families and kids, who made up 60% of our audience,” DreamWorks Animation president of marketing Anne Globe said.

The original Kung Fu Panda debuted to $60.2 million in early June 2008 at the domestic box office on its way to cuming $215.4 million. 

Coming in third at the domestic box office was Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which grossed a solid $50.4 million for the four-day holiday weekend, bringing its cume to $164 million. It fell roughly 55% for the weekend proper, in line with declines for other titles in the franchise.

Disney president of worldwide distribution Chuck Viane said he was happy that Pirates helped contribute to the record Memorial Day weekend.

Overseas, Pirates continued to thrive, grossing an estimated $137.1 million for the Friday-Monday stretch, and bringing the movie's global haul to $649.1 million, by far the best showing of the year so far.