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Good buzz wins out as 'Hangover,' 'Up' dominate box office once again

June 14, 2009 | 10:43 am

HangoverScream Word-of-mouth defeated opening-weekend hype at the box office as two established films easily dominated a pair of new movies with big name stars.

"The Hangover" and "Up" were No. 1 and No. 2 at the domestic box office with studio estimated ticket sales of $33.4 million and $30.5 million, respectively, on their second and third weekends, respectively. "Up's" box office gross declined 31% from last weekend, while "The Hangover" was down just 26%.

"The Hangover's" drop is the smallest for any movie this summer and indicates it will ultimately gross well over $200 million, a very strong performance for a movie that cost Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures only $35 million to produce.

"Up," meanwhile, is declining slower than any Pixar movie since 2003's "Finding Nemo." If it continues to perform as well as that movie, it could easily earn over $300 million in the U.S. and Canada by the end of its run.

Though marketing has continued for both movies, their continued strong grosses demonstrate that audiences who weren't initially interested are hearing good things from friends and family, online and in the press. Some moviegoers are also undoubtedly going back for second viewings.

The traditional drivers of a No. 1 movie -- well known stars and the marketing muscle that comes with a summer opening -- didn't prove very powerful this weekend. Sony Pictures' remake of "The Taking of Pelham 123," which stars Denzel Washington and John Travolta, debuted with sales of $25 million. Sixty-two percent of audiences were over 30, making "Pelham" the latest in a string of adult-targeted thrillers to start modestly this year.

Pelham123 Although far from disastrous, "Pelham's" opening is relatively soft for a film budgeted at more than $100 million. Co-financiers Sony and Relativity Media are counting on Travolta and Washington to deliver a bigger audience overseas if the film is to be a success, as has happened with Sony's "Angels and Demons."

Eddie Murphy's appeal, meanwhile, proved virtually non-existent, as "Imagine That" opened to an anemic $5.7 million, well below already weak expectations. Paramount's family comedy, which cost $55 million, is the summer's second-biggest flop so far after "Land of the Lost."

Staying power proved important at the foreign box office as well, where "Terminator Salvation" was No. 1 for the second weekend in a row. The Halcyon Co.'s fourth entry in the science-fiction series, which is being distributed internationally by Sony, grossed $46.1 million. That includes very impressive launches in Japan and China, where it grossed $10.7 million and $9 million, respectively.

The $200-million movie is making up for a soft performance in the U.S. and Canada, where it has earned $113.8 million, with foreign grosses that already total $165.5 million.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics opened the indie science-fiction film "Moon" at eight theaters and earned a healthy $145,218. Francis Ford Coppola's new film "Tetro" bowed to a respectable $31,339 at two locations. Magnolia's documentary about the business behind the things we eat, "Food, Inc.," also started off solidly with $61,400 at three theaters.

Focus Features' "Away We Go," starring John Kraskinsky and Maya Rudolph, continues to perform well. It sold $554,383 worth of tickets at 45 locations on its second weekend, bringing its total gross to $751,322.

Here are the top 10 films at the domestic box office this weekend, according to studio estimates and

1. "The Hangover" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $33.4 million, down just 26% on its second weekend. Domestic total: $105.4 million.

2. "Up" (Disney/Pixar): $30.5 million on its third weekend, a decline of just 31%. Domestic total: $187.2 million.

3. "The Taking of Pelham 123" (Sony/Relativity): Opened to $25 million.

4. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (Fox): $9.6 million, down 34% on its fourth weekend at the box office. Domestic total: $143.4 million.

5. "Land of the Lost" (Universal/Relativity): $9.2 million, down 51% from its opening. Domestic total: $35 million.

6. "Imagine That" (Paramount): Debuted at $5.7 million.

7. "Star Trek" (Paramount/Spyglass): $5.6 million, a 33% decline on its sixth weekend. Domestic total: $232 million.

8. "Terminator Salvation" (Warner Bros./Halcyon): $4.7 million, down 43% on its fourth weekend. Domestic total: $113.8 million.

9. "Angels and Demons" (Sony): $4.2 million, a drop of 36% on its fifth weekend. Domestic total: $123.3 million.

10. "Drag Me to Hell" (Universal/Ghost House): $3.9 million, down 45% on its third weekend. Domestic total: $35.1 million.

--Ben Fritz

Photos, from top: Ed Helms and Heather Graham in "The Hangover"; John Travolta in "The Taking of Pelham 123." Photo credits, from top: Frank Masi / Warner Bros.; Stephen Vaughan / Columbia Pictures