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Angels & Demons Barely Edges Out Star Trek: HuffPost Weekend Box Office in Review (05/10/09)

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Apologies for the delay, real life got in the way.

The finals are out, and per usual, I'm glad I waited as there was enough of a difference to have necessitated a rewrite had I just gone with the estimates on Sunday. The shocking news is that while Angels & Demons did a solid $46 million over the weekend (no one was expecting anything approaching The Da Vinci Code's $77 million opening), it actually came in second place to Star Trek on Saturday and Sunday. According to Box Office Mojo, the official budget for Angels & Demons was $150 million (I'm suspicious as the number just went up and I couldn't find budget info anywhere until today). If that is a truthful figure, then Sony should have a solid longterm profit on their hands. Surely the picture will come close to or slightly improve upon this number over the long Memorial Day weekend, so a $100 million+ gross in eleven days is a lock. After that, it only has one more weekend as the 'adult choice' before getting hammered by another Sony film, The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3. Again, I'm not sure what Sony was thinking opening two mainstream adult thrillers so close together as, had Sony waited on the Denzel Washington/John Travolta caper, then Angels & Demons would have had the adult market to itself for over a month, until Public Enemies on July 1st. But I've digressed.

So far, the international numbers ($102 million) for the Dan Brown adaptation seem to be vastly overpowering the US debut, as did The Da Vinci Code (which is what Sony was counting on). Even if Angels & Demons does only 2/3 of the business of its forebearer, that's still $145 million in the US and $360 million overseas, leading to a half-billion dollars for this alleged 'underperformer'. This may not be a mega-sequel, but it's not Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life or Prince Capsian. For what it's worth, the Angels & Demons opening bested National Treasure: Book of Secrets by $2 million, with both fending off the second weekend of a $75 million+ opener.

Speaking of second weekends for a $75 million opener, the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot 'stunned' analysists by only dropping 42% in its second weekend (it's a 46% drop when compared to the full 3.5 day $79 million opening). This is the best hold for a mega opener that I've seen since... The Incredibles in November 2004? That Pixar masterpiece opened to $70 million, then dropped a mere 28% in weekend two for $50 million, which is still I believe the smallest drop for a film opening over $50 million. Either way, this is a remarkable hold for this day and age, owing both to a lack of a monster opener, a weekend without direct competition, and yes, word of mouth and a week of positive press attention.

The film is expanding far outside the niche Star Trek fanbase (apparently it has a solid repeat-viewing female fanbase that's already writing slash-fiction). It has amassed $148 million in 10.5 days and will probably pass $200 million and become the year's highest grosser by Memorial Day. FYI - djusted for inflation, the top grossing Star Trek picture is Star Trek: The Motion Picture, whose 1979 gross of $81 million translates into $235.3 million today. And if Terminator: Salvation is a one-weekend story, then Star Trek has only the sci-fi comedy Land of the Lost to contend with for a full month (Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen comes out June 24th). If that happens, then $250 million is not out of the question. Regardless of my feelings on the picture, this is a major break out performance and a true box office accomplishment. Everyone in Paramount marketing should be getting giant raises right now.

For more box office info, including some shockingly steady holds by a large number of pictures, the third weekend fate of Wolverine, and why Night at the Museum 2 might just beat Terminator: Salvation this weekend, go to the full column at Mendelson's Memos.

Scott Mendelson