3-D key for D'Works Ani in cartoon's $58 mil debut

There was a lucrative extra dimension to the No. 1 bow of DreamWorks Animation's 3-D animated feature "Monsters vs. Aliens" during the weekend. Released by Paramount in a mix of 2-D and 3-D venues, "Monsters" topped all domestic comers with an estimated $58.2 million debut, boasting outsized contributions from its 3-D screens.

"Monsters" played on about 7,000 screens in 4,104 theaters, with the PG-rated action comedy offered in 3-D on just more than 2,000 of those U.S. and Canadian screens. But 3-D screens contributed 56% of the overall tally — or $32.6 million from just 28% of the screens — to power "Monsters" to the biggest 3-D opening to date.

Lionsgate's supernatural thriller "The Haunting in Connecticut" opened strongly in second place with $23 million, but Fox's cop thriller "12 Rounds" rang up just $5.3 million in a soft seventh-place bow. Summit Entertainment's "Knowing" was third, with the Nicolas Cage starrer dropping a modest 40% from its opening grosses to fetch $14.7 million and shape a 10-day cume of $46.2 million.

Two other holdovers also fared well in their sophomore sessions: Paramount's R-rated comedy "I Love You, Man" dipped 29% to $12.6 million in fourth place with a $37 million cume, and Universal's Julia Roberts-Clive Owen starrer "Duplicity" declined 46% to $7.6 million in fifth place with a $25.6 million cume.

Industrywide, the weekend's $143 million represented a 34% improvement compared with the same frame last year, Nielsen said. Year-to-date, 2009 is pacing 2% ahead of the same portion of last year, at $2.19 billion.

Among limited bows on the weekend, Gener8Xion Entertainment's documentary "The Cross" unspooled in 221 locations and grossed $327,301, or a thin $1,526 per site.

Music Box debuted the French romantic comedy "Shall We Kiss" in four theaters and wooed $30,984 for a pleasing $7,746 per venue.

Roadside Attractions opened the dramedy "Goodbye Solo" in three locations to gross $40,540, or an auspicious $13,413 per site.

Overture Films expanded its Amy Adams-Emily Blunt starrer "Sunshine Cleaning" by 64 playdates for a total of 167 and grossed $1.3 million, or a solid $8,485 per engagement, with a $2.5 million cume.

Co-directed by Rob Letterman ("Shark Tale") and Conrad Vernon ("Shrek 2"), "Monsters" features a voice cast led by Reese Witherspoon, who picked up a personal best with the bow, which surpassed the $35.6 million opening of 2002's "Sweet Home Alabama."

"Monsters" drew audiences skewing 53% female, with 25% of patrons under 12 and another 45% parents of kids in attendance.

"The remainder was teens in general," DreamWorks marketing exec Anne Globe said. "The movie played similarly to other DreamWorks Animation movies and played broadly."

The bow "exceeded our expectations," Globe added.

Ticket prices for 3-D and Imax 3-D venues were marked up $3-$5, depending on the market. Imax's 143 3-D screens accounted for $5.2 million of the "Monsters" tally, or a monstrous $36,300 per screen.

"Eighteen of the top 20 locations playing the film have Imax screens," Imax Film Entertainment president Greg Foster said. "And we did 9% of the boxoffice on only 143 screens."

RealD serviced more than 1,700 of the 3-D screens on "Monsters," with Dolby Digital accounting for the balance.

"It's a good day for 3-D," RealD CEO Michael Lewis said.

RealD screens accounted for about $25 million of the "Monsters" total.

Rated PG-13, "Haunting" drew audiences skewing 62% female, with 44% of patrons 17-24. First-time feature helmer Peter Cornwell directed the Virginia Madsen starrer.

"We're extremely happy with the opening," Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said.

Also rated PG-13, "12 Rounds" drew audiences 57% male, with 53% of patrons 25 and older. Directed by Renny Harlin ("Die Hard 2"), "12 Rounds" stars pro wrestler John Cena.

Fox is only acting as the distributor on the film, which was produced by World Wrestling Entertainment. Execs said exit polls showed patrons responded positively to the pic, boding well for its word-of-mouth prospects over the next two weekends.

"Hopefully, we have momentum to play through Easter," Fox senior vp distribution Bert Livingston said.

Two movies open in wide release this Friday: Universal's action sequel "Fast and Furious" and Miramax's coming-of-age dramedy "Adventureland."

Neither of the market entrants should compete directly with "Monsters" over the family pic's second session. But "Fast" looks likely to start fast and race to the top of the weekend boxoffice. (partialdiff)