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Scott Mendelson's Huffington Post weekend box office rundown (3/29/09)

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Well, it's 3.55x for Monsters Vs. Aliens. The much hyped 3D toon from Dreamworks took in a best-of-2009 opening weekend of $59.3 million. This includes $16.8 million on Friday, $24..3 million on Saturday (an uptick of 45%), and a $18.2 million Sunday. So, yes, it played like a family film through and through. This is the biggest opening for any kind of 3D film, besting the $40 million that Chicken Little scored in November 2005. Of course, Chicken Little didn't have nearly as many 3D screens as Monsters Vs. Aliens. Plus, today's 3D screens for the Dreamworks feature are charging a $2-3 premium on tickets. For the record, 56% (about $32 million) of its weekend total came from the 28% of its screens with 3D capabilities and 9% of the gross (about $5.2 million) came from the 143 IMAX theaters. Whether the grosses of such 3D hits as Coraline, Monsters Vs. Aliens, and My Bloody Valentine deserve a Roger Maris astrix is open to debate. For now, until any major records are broken, we'll just let it be. But rest assured, as soon as a 3D movie breaks a major record like biggest opening weekend, you'll be sure to hear complaining from the studio of the prior record holder (unless of course, the new record holder is from the same studio as the prior record holder, in which case every other studio will carp).

As for legs, let's review similar films. Chicken Little had mediocre reviews and word of mouth, but it held on through 2005 anyway to gross $135 million (which was and still is Disney's highest grossing non-Pixar toon since Lilo and Stitch in summer 2002). The recent 3D toon Bolt opened with a softer $26 million (against the $69 million debut of Twilight), but it held its ground over the holidays and crossed $114 million. Two years ago this weekend, Disney's Meet The Robinsons debuted in 2D and 3D theaters to about $25 million. Alas, because you people are soulless monsters who don't deserve Meet The Robinsons, it petered out at $96 million (I'd turn you all into ducks, except I don't know how and I don't need a duck). So, like any other type of movie, there is no real pattern to discern. But, since the reviews are similar and the debut is probably similar in terms of tickets sold, I'll go with the Chicken Little multiplier. That one had a 3.4x weekend-to-total multiplier. So a similar final gross is $197.2 million. Let's toss in the holiday weeks coming up (various schools have Spring Break during the next month) and Dreamworks' bragging necessities, and we'll give it $210 million by closing time. However, if it performs like the quick-kill 2.8 multiplier Madagascar 2: Escape To Africa (which is much better than I expected, by the way), it'll end its run with $166 million.

Coming in second with a shockingly large debut is Lionsgate's The Haunting In Connecticut. That one had a decent for a horror film multiplier of 2.4x. So it ended the weekend with $23 million. It comes in just under the $23.9 million debut of Lionsgate's Fahrenheit 9/11 on the list of non-Saw/non Tyler Perry films from Lionsgate. In fact, this opening tops all of the various Screen Gems/Sony horror films that have been raking in over the last three years. That 'end of 2008 blitz' may have been a mixed blessing for Lionsgate, but 2009 has been one whammy after another (save the low-budget New In Town). My Bloody Valentine, Madea Goes To Jail and now The Haunting In Connecticut have all opened north of $20 million. And next month brings Crank 2, which should deliver a solid improvement on the much liked original. The 3D action cartoon Battle For Terra is a riskier gamble (in which mankind is the villain, invading the home of a race of peace loving aliens... subtle), but we'll see how it fares about X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

For movie box office info, including what holdovers crashed and burned, what older movies stood their ground, and why the makers of Coraline have another reason to be furious, check out the rest at Mendelson's Memos.

Scott Mendelson