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Memorial Day box office sluggish as 'Museum' opens strong but 'Terminator' struggles

May 25, 2009 | 10:47 am

TerminatorSalvationb The healthy box office seemed to lose its mojo over Memorial Day.

Overall ticket sales for the weekend rose only 2% from last year, according to Hollywood.com, a big downward shift in a year where the total is up more than 14%.

"Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian" grossed a healthy $70 million over the four days, while "Terminator Salvation" came in at a relatively weak $53.8 million. However, combined, they barely matched the opening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" last year, leading to virtually flat total sales for the industry.

The opening of Fox's family sequel was right in line with estimates based on pre-release tracking and a solid figure given its $125-million production budget, after Canadian tax rebates. However, its $50.1-million gross in 93 foreign markets was less impressive compared with other movies that have opened simultaneously worldwide this year. That's an early indication it may not mirror the performance of the original, which made more money overseas than in the U.S. and Canada.

Family films tend to hold on very well at the box office, but "Smithsonian" will face significant competition   Friday from Disney and Pixar's "Up," which is pursuing the same audience.

"Terminator" paled next to other big summer action movies like "Wolverine" and "Star Trek" and didn't even match the opening weekend of "Terminator 3" six years ago. The $200-million movie started relatively well Thursday but quickly lost momentum. That's a sign of weak word of mouth and should leave Warner Bros. and The Halycon Co., which financed the film, concerned that it will decline rapidly in the coming weeks.

"Salvation's" hopes now rest largely on international markets, where Sony Pictures will launch the film next week.

"Dance Flick" did decent business for a low-budget spoof comedy, grossing $13.1 million through Monday on its opening weekend.

Here's the domestic box-office top 10 chart for the weekend based on studio estimates and data from Hollywood.com. While all grosses are over four days, percentage drops are based on the Friday-Sunday receipts so that the comparison with last weekend is fair.

1. "Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian" (Fox): Opened to a healthy $70 million for the four-day weekend. Overseas its performance was less impressive, as it debuted to $50.1 million in 93 countries.

2. "Terminator Salvation" (Warner Bros.): Its four-day gross of $53.8 million was a soft launch for a $200-million summer event film. The total gross since Thursday is $67.2 million. Sony opens the film internationally in two weeks.

3. "Star Trek" (Paramount): Continuing to post relatively modest declines, it fell 47% and grossed $29.4 million through Monday. Domestic total (19 days): $191 million. International total: $87.5 million.

4. "Angels and Demons" (Sony): Grossed $27.7 million on its second weekend, down 53%. Foreign grosses continue to be big, though the figures for U.S. and Canada are not. Domestic total (11 days): $87.8 million. International total: $198.3 million.

5. "Dance Flick" (Paramount): Opened to $13.1 million, about what was expected.

6. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (Fox): Grossed $10.1 million, down 46%. Domestic total (25 days): $163.4 million. International total: $156.7 million.

7. "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" (Warner Bros. / New Line): $4.8 million, down 43%. Domestic total (25 days): $47 million.

8. "Obsesssed" (Sony / Screen Gems): $2.5 million, down 57%. Domestic total (32 days): $66.4 million.

9. "Monsters vs. Aliens" (Paramount / DreamWorks Animation): $1.9 million, down 55%. Domestic total (60 days): $193.5 million.

10. "17 Again" (Warner Bros. / New Line): $1.3 million, down 70%. Domestic total (39 days): $60.6 million.

Update: Read the full box office analysis from tomorrow's Los Angeles Times.


-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Christian Bale and Sam Worthington in "Terminator Salvation." Credit: Warner Bros.

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