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Box Office: With 'Hangover' and 'Kung Fu Panda' sequels, it's the biggest Memorial Day weekend ever [Updated]

May 30, 2011 |  9:08 am


After months of slow business at the box office, Hollywood's headache may finally be subsiding. Audiences showed up in droves to see a bawdy comedy, an animated family film and even art-house fare over the holiday, making it the biggest Memorial Day weekend on record for ticket sales.

"The Hangover Part II," the sequel to the 2009 surprise hit about three friends trying to piece together a wild night out, grossed a phenomenal $137.4 million from Thursday to Monday in North America, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. The weekend's other new movie in wide release, the 3-D animated film "Kung Fu Panda 2," raked in a so-so $68 million. Those grosses were enough to help push the overall weekend tally to $280 million, breaking the 2007 Friday-through-Monday record of $255 million and blowing by 2010's paltry $192.7 million take. 

"The Hangover Part II" passed some milestones of its own, as it had the biggest debut of any R-rated comedy ever. Even the film's three-day gross from Friday through Sunday was far higher than 2008's "Sex and the City: The Movie," which collected $56 million on its first weekend in theaters.

The film, this time set in Bangkok instead of Las Vegas, was produced by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures for about $80 million, meaning it is off to an excellent start. As expected, the movie attracted a young crowd -- a segment of the audience that so far this year has not been eager to rush out to the cinema. Of those who saw the second "Hangover" film, 54% were under 25, and 41% were between the ages of 18 and 24. Those who saw the filmed enjoyed it, giving it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That bodes well for the movie, as the first "Hangover" film received an A grade and went on to gross $467.5 million worldwide largely due to its strong word-of-mouth.

Overseas, the movie opened in 40 countries and grossed $59 million, a strong take for a comedy abroad. The film performed best in the United Kingdom, where it had $16.4 million in ticket sales. The sequel will open in Germany and Russia next weekend, where it will continue its attempt to surpass the $190 million international tally of the original "Hangover."

Panda While "Kung Fu Panda 2" fared decently, it did not do as well as its 2008 predecessor, "Kung Fu Panda," which collected $60.2 million in three days compared with the sequel's $47.8 million Friday-through-Sunday gross. Plus, the second film has the benefit of 3-D ticket surcharges and it was also more expensive to make. DreamWorks Animation produced the second film about a sword-wielding panda for around $140 million, roughly $20 million more than the budget for first movie.

Those who saw the film loved it, giving it an average grade of A, which was even better than the A-minus grade the first movie received. About a third of the audience, 33%, was under the age of 18, and the picture attracted slightly more males (54%) than females (46%).

But like "Kung Fu Panda," the sequel will still probably do more business overseas than domestically. The first film collected $416.3 million of its total $631.7 million gross internationally. And the second film is already off to a fantastic start abroad, opening in only 11 countries and already collecting $57 million. The movie sold the most tickets in China, where it is set, grossing $18.5 million. "Kung Fu Panda 2" opens in 11 additional foreign territories next weekend, including Greece and Hungary.

In limited release, a number of low-budget films did solid business. In two theaters in New York and two more in Los Angeles, Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or-winning "Tree of Life" grossed $488,920 over four days for an excellent per-theater average of $122,230. Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" expanded from six theaters to 58 and had $3.5 million in ticket sales over four days.

[Updated at 10:27 a.m.: After just over 10 days in release, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" has already passed the $400-million mark at the box office overseas. The film added $124.3 million to its bounty in more than 100 foreign markets this weekend, bringing its international total to $485.1 million. That means the film is well on its way to reaching the $654 million that the third film in the series, "At World's End," collected abroad in 2007.

Here are the top 10 movies in the U.S. and Canada, based on their four-day grosses. Percentage drops are based on three-day grosses. International grosses are through Sunday only.

1. "The Hangover Part II" (Warner Bros./Legendary): Opened to $105.8 million. $60.3 million overseas in 40 foreign markets. Domestic total: $137.4 million.

2. "Kung Fu Panda 2" (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): Opened to $62.2 million. $57 million overseas in 11 foreign markets. Domestic total: $68 million.

3. "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (Disney): $50.4 million on its second weekend, down 56%. $124.3 million overseas in more than 100 foreign markets. Domestic total: $164 million. International total: $485.1 million.

4. "Bridesmaids" (Universal/Relativity): $21 million on its third weekend, down 21%. Domestic total: $89.6 million.

5. "Thor" (Marvel/Paramount): $12 million on its fourth weekend, down 39%. $3.5 million overseas in 60 foreign markets. Domestic total: $162.4 million. International total: $253.1 million.

6. "Fast Five" (Universal): $8.2 million on its fifth weekend, down 39%. $13.3 million overseas in 61 foreign markets. Domestic total: $197.6 million. International total: $346 million.

7. "Midnight in Paris" (Sony Pictures Classics): $2.6 million in 58 theaters. Domestic total: $3.5 million.

8. "Rio" (Fox): $2.4 million on its seventh weekend, down 61%. $3.8 million overseas in 37 foreign markets. Domestic total: $135.4 million. International total: $321.9 million.

9. "Jumping the Broom" (Sony TriStar): $2.4 million on its fourth weekend, down 51%. Domestic total: $34.6 million.

10. "Something Borrowed" (Warner Bros./Alcon): $2.3 million on its fourth weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $35.2 million.]

-- Amy Kaufman


Box Office: 'Hangover 2' has huge first day, 'Kung Fu Panda 2' doesn't put up a fight yet

'The Hangover Part II' wakes up to $10.4 million from midnight screenings

Movie Projector: Memorial Day weekend to soar with 'Hangover,' 'Kung Fu Panda' sequels

Top photo: (From left) Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha and Ed Helms star in "The Hangover Part II." Credit: Warner Bros.

Bottom photo: Po the animated panda is voiced by Jack Black in "Kung Fu Panda 2." Credit: DreamWorks Animation