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A tale of two movies: 'Hangover' booms while 'Land of the Lost' bombs

June 7, 2009 | 11:02 am

LandLost1 It was evident going into this weekend that "The Hangover" had the wind at its back and "Land of the Lost" was struggling. But nobody expected an outcome this extreme.

Despite arguably the biggest star in big-screen comedy and a well-known title among adults, "Land of the Lost" apparently couldn't overcome the sense -- from ads, scathing reviews and audience buzz -- that the film simply wasn't funny. The $100-million event film opened to a very weak $19.5 million. "Speed Racer," the biggest flop of last summer, opened to a similar $18.5 million and went on to gross just $44 million in the U.S. and Canada. "Land of the Lost" will likely do the same.

The PG-13 film played evenly to all age ranges, and about 40% of its ticket buyers were families, so it wasn't that it failed to reach one particular demographic. It was that not enough people from any group were interested.

Some movies, such as "Angels and Demons" and "Terminator Salvation," are overcoming soft domestic performances with big grosses overseas. But Will Ferrell comedies, even ones that score big in the U.S. and Canada, have traditionally not done much business in international markets.

Going into the summer, "The Hangover" looked like pure counterprograming aimed at younger men. The $35-million comedy has no stars and, unlike most summer movies, isn't based on a recognizable brand. Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' best hopes seemed to be an opening in the mid-$20-million range and several weeks of healthy grosses underneath the big-budget blockbusters.

Instead, the film opened to a shockingly huge $43.3 million, more than double what "Land of the Lost" made. A savvy marketing campaign drew a surprisingly diverse crowd that was 48% female and 53% older than 25. If it holds up well in the coming weeks, which seems likely given its "A" rating from ticket buyers according to CinemaScore, it could turn into one of summer's most profitable movies.

Right alongside it will likely be "Up." Disney and Pixar's animated feature dropped only 35% on its second weekend, the lowest figure for any summer movie so far and an indication of extremely strong word-of-mouth. It just narrowly beat "The Hangover" to take the No. 1 spot this weekend with $44.2 million. Its total domestic gross in 10 days is $137.3 million.

Focus Features opened indie comedy "Away We Go" in limited release. The film, directed by Sam Mendes and starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph,  opened to a very healthy $143,260 at four theaters in Los Angeles and New York.

AngelsDemons On the international front, it's proving to be a great summer for Sony Pictures, which has taken two movies that performed poorly in the U.S. and Canada to healthy grosses overseas. "Angels and Demons" this weekend became the No. 1 worldwide movie of the year, thanks much more to its $293 million in foreign grosses than the $116.1 million it has earned domestically.

The studio this weekend also opened "Terminator Salvation" in 61 countries. Combined with the nine markets in which it was already playing, the sci-fi action sequel grossed a healthy $67.5 million, bringing its total foreign ticket sales to $97.2 million. That's already almost as much as "Salvation," which cost $200 million to produce, has earned in the U.S. and Canada over three weekends.

Sony acquired foreign distribution rights from the Halcyon Co., which financed "Salvation," for about $100 million.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office this weekend, according to studio estimates and data from Hollywood.com.

1. "Up" (Disney/Pixar): $44.2 million on its second weekend, down only 35%. Domestic total: $137.3 million.

2. "The Hangover" (Warner Bros./Legendary): Opened to a $43.3 million, huge for a low-budget comedy with no stars.

3. "Land of the Lost" (Universal/Relativity): Debuted at $19.5, a major flop for a big-budget summer event film.

4. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (Fox): $14.7 million on its third weekend, down a relatively small 40%. Domestic total: $127.3 million. Overseas it has made an even healthier $148.4 million.

5. "Star Trek" (Paramount/Spyglass): $8.4 million on its fifth weekend, down just 33%. Domestic total is $222.8 million, the biggest for any movie this summer so far.

6. "Terminator Salvation" (Warner Bros./Halcyon): $8.2 million, a 50% decline on its third weekend. Domestic total is a weak $105.5 million. But overseas it already has grossed $97.2 million, 69% of which came this weekend.

7. "Drag Me to Hell" (Universal/Ghost House): Dropped 53% on its second weekend to $7.3 million. Domestic total: $28.5 million.

8. "Angels and Demons" (Sony Pictures): $6.5 million, down 43% on its fourth weekend for a domestic total of $116.1 million. Internationally, however, "Angels" is a monster, having grossed $293 million so far.

9. "My Life in Ruins" (Fox Searchlight): Opened to $3.2 million, about what was expected given that the low-budget comedy played at only 1,164 theaters.

10. "Dance Flick" (Paramount): The Wayans Brothers spoof grossed $2 million on its third weekend, bringing its domestic total to $22.7 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Photos: Will Ferrell in "Land of the Lost," Credit: Universal Pictures. Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in "Angels and Demons." Credit: Zade Rosenthal / Columbia Pictures

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