'Hannah Montana' rocks boxoffice

Movie earns $34 mil over biggest Easter weekend ever

'Fast & Furious' tops overseas boxoffice
'Fast & Furious' review
'Hannah Montana: The Movie' review
'Observe and Report' review
'Dragonball Evolution' review

Girls bent on having fun flocked to the multiplex en masse this weekend, powering "Hannah Montana: The Movie" to a tuneful $34 million opening and contributing to the biggest Easter weekend ever at the North American boxoffice.

The weekend's two other new wide releases had a more difficult time establishing traction. Warner Bros.' "Observe and Report" checked in at fourth place with $11.1 million, while Fox's "Dragonball Evolution" was relegated to eighth place with just $4.7 million.

But fueled by big holdover numbers from "Fast & Furious" and "Monsters vs. Aliens," ticket sales continued to tell an upbeat story.

The weekend haul of $137 million ranks as the top-grossing Easter weekend, surpassing the previous record of $132.1 million set in 2002, according to Nielsen. Boxoffice for the top 10 films was up more than 62% over the comparable weekend last year.

With "HMTM," Disney continued to mine the successful teen franchise that began in 2006 when "Hannah Montana" first hit the Disney Channel. Starring Miley Cyrus and her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, the series established the premise of a regular teen who secretly moonlights as a pop star and begat last year's hit 3-D concert movie, "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert."

That film was originally booked in theaters for one week, which contributed to a boxoffice rush and a $31.1 million opening in just 683 theaters. Heading into last weekend, the cautious betting was that the "HMTM" wouldn't beat that figure even though it was opening in 3,118 theaters.

But the new G-rated film -- directed by Peter Chelsom and written by Dan Berendsen, in which Hannah's dad drags her back to their hometown in Tennessee -- showed no signs of diminishing fan interest. Its opening take on Friday of $17.3 million was the highest opening day for a G-rated live-action film in industry history. And its three-day, $34 million haul ranks second, behind only the $40.2 million opening of "Scary Movie 4" in 2006, among Easter weekend debuts.

"The most important thing is you have a real star here," Chuck Viane, Disney's distribution chief, said of Miley Cyrus' rise. "All of the (people at) Disney Channel built her into the unbelievable star that she is. Peter Chelsom and Dan Berendsen delivered on the highest level. Our marketing crew hit all the right notes, and Miley worked her butt off to promote the film."

As part of a new program called "Opening Weekend Surprise," in which Disney promises moviegoers its stars will make surprise appearances over the course of opening weekends, the Cyruses made unannounced in-theater appearances in Salt Lake City and Knoxville.

Testifying to the 16-year-old performer's tween appeal, 60% of the opening weekend audience was 17 or younger, and families comprised 66% of the audience. Satisfied fans awarded the movie a Cinemascore of A, which points to continuing returns.

Meanwhile, the Seth Rogen starrer "Observe," from Warners and Legendary Pictures, appealed to a much narrower slice of the boxoffice. The R-rated film about a somewhat delusional mall cop, directed by Jody Hill, bowed in 2,727 theaters, where it collected $11.1 million, which put it in fourth place.

That opening was more in line with the $10.1 million of Rogen's last live-action movie, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," than with the earlier stoner comedy "Pineapple Express," which debuted to $23.2 million.

"Observe" attracted an audience, concentrated in the 17-29 demographic, that tipped 59% male. "The film was a little darker, and really played more big-city," Warners distribution exec Jeffrey Goldstein said. But because it was produced for about $18 million, Goldstein predicted "at the end of the day, it will come in in the black."

Fox's "Dragonball Evolution," a live-action spinoff of a successful Japanese manga/anime franchise, proved to be an also-ran. The PG-rated movie directed by James Wong took in $4.7 million in 2,181 theaters. The movie looks as if it will do most of its business abroad, where it had already taken in more than $25 million before its U.S. release.

Contributing to the record-breaking weekend, Universal's "Fast" braked by 59% in its second weekend. But following its $70 million bow as top draw during the previous frame, it still took in $28.8 million as its domestic cume rose to $118 million, making it the fifth movie of 2009 to cross the $100 million mark. Worldwide, where it opened in 18 more territories over the weekend, the movie was expected to cross the $200 million mark Sunday.

In its third weekend, Paramount's release of DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters" dipped by 31%, taking in $22.6 million, which brought its domestic tally to $141 million.

In fifth and sixth place, Summit's "Knowing" and Paramount/DreamWorks' "I Love You, Man" were off just 18% and 17% respectively.

"Knowing" grabbed $6.7 million, which brought its gross to $68 million, and "Man" pulled in $6.4 million for a purse of nearly $59 million.

In its second weekend, "Adventureland," Miramax's period coming-of-age tale, fell by 40%. Its weekend gross of $3.4 million brought its tally to $11.5 million.

Among limited releases, Sony Pictures Classics saw "Sugar," its baseball drama, take in $114,676 on 18 screens to bring its cume to just over $200,000, while its second weekend of the French film "Paris 36" rang up $71,911 on 20 screens, bringing its account to $382,076.

Focus' Spanish-language "Sin Nombre" added 41 theaters and collected $324,279 to bring its four-weekend total to $797,741.

"Anvil! The Story of Anvil," Sacha Gervai's documentary about a Canadian heavy metal band still looking to hit it big, also found a receptive audience. The Abramorama release bowed in three theaters, where it picked up $34,802 for a promising per-screen average of $11,601.