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Box-office first look: 'Museum' healthy, 'Terminator' misfires

May 25, 2009 |  9:02 am

NightMuseum2a The big-budget family film easily beat the bigger-budgeted action movie at the domestic box office, as Fox's "Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian" grossed $70 million for the four-day holiday weekend, while Warner Bros.' "Terminator Salvation" took in $53.8 million.

While it didn't significantly outperform pre-release tracking or come remotely close to the blockbusters that Memorial Day weekend has seen for the last few years, "Museum" pulled in a healthy haul for a film budgeted at about $125 million. It could go on to a very big total, given that family movies tend to hold well and the original "Museum" ultimately grossed more than eight times its opening weekend. However it does have one major challenge: Disney and Pixar's "Up," which opens Friday and is going after the same audience.

After a decent start Thursday, "Terminator Salvation" quickly fizzled, indicating weak audience word of mouth. Its four-day total was $53.8 million, and its total gross since Thursday is $67.2 million. That's less than what studio executives had expected based on tracking and a relatively weak start for the $200-million blockbuster, which was financed by The Halcyon Co. and is being distributed by Warner Bros. domestically and Sony overseas.

Its three-day total of $43 million is actually $1 million less than what the third "Terminator" film opened to in 2003, a bad sign given significant ticket price inflation since then.

Paramount's low-budget spoof comedy "Dance Flick" opened to $13.1 million for the four-day weekend, in line with modest expectations.

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

--Ben Fritz

Photo: Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill in "Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian." Credit: Doane Gregory / 20th Century Fox