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Box Office Breaks Memorial Day Weekend Record, Hangover Part II Leads Holiday Surge

Box Office Breaks Memorial Day Weekend Record, Hangover Part II Leads Holiday Surge

The 2011 box office slump is a distant memory as summer hit full stride with two mighty Memorial Day Weekend sequels, The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2. Anthony D’Alessandro reports.

Grossing $118.1 million in four days, Warner Bros.’ The Hangover Part II wasn’t a drunken delusion, but a Memorial Day box office record worth remembering. Like a cup of coffee after an evening’s stupor, Hangover 2 jolted this year’s under-25 set wide awake as they spent an estimated $280 million overall at the cinema this weekend –an all-time record that surpasses 2007’s $255.6 million and puts 2010’s atrocious $192.7 million Memorial Day B.O. out of mind.

Families also fueled the holiday, breaking early from their picnic and poolside rituals to take in Kung Fu Panda 2 which looks to make $68.2 million by Monday – a figure that’s well below the $100 million Shrek sequel openings, but decent enough to beat the martial arts panda’s $60.2 million first installment. At $150 million, Kung Fu Panda 2 is $20-million more pricey than its first chapter, however, it really kicked butt abroad with $57 million from 11 overseas markets. The toon’s Eastern themes drove a foreign film record opening in China with $18.5 million as well as the best feature animated bow in South Korea with $13 million. The first Kung Fu Panda nearly doubled its $215.4 million domestic gross abroad with $416.3 million ($631.7 million worldwide).

Not only did Hangover 2, co-produced by Legendary Pictures, establish a new high for an adult comedy, but it marked the first time since 1993 that an R-rated film topped the May holiday frame; the previous champ being Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger ($16.2 million three-day B.O.). Among all Memorial Day champs, 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End still holds the belt for the 4-day and 5-day opening respectively with $127 million and $153 million. Hangover 2 will come in at an estimated $106 million over the Friday-Monday span and $135 million for its Thursday-Monday run. Among all R-rated openings, Hangover 2 slots second behind Matrix Reloaded’s Friday-Sunday take of $91.7 million and behind the sci-fi flick’s first four-and-half day cume of $134.3 million.

Any distribution executive who fretted over college and high school kids’ absence at the theater, can clearly see that if studios delivered a hip franchise earlier in the year, then the crowd would never have run away. 54% of Hangover 2’s audience repped those under 25. 41% were between the ages of 18-24, while another 13%, under 18, slipped into the theater. Overall Cinemascore was an A- while older teens screamed a joyous A+. Critics didn’t care for it at 34% rotten nor did they impact pubic opinion.

“We’re in a cyclical business that’s content-driven. What we have now are good movies driving the box office,” said Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman, who predicted the box office comeback: “We’re back in full stride and the 2011 box office should exceed last year by mid July.”

This marks a needed win for Warner Bros., which despite its flood of releases this year, had yet to see a $100 million-grosser despite No. 1 bows with The Rite and Unknown.

Hangover 2 has enjoyed an enormous amount of free publicity, in the vein of a Twilight production, ever since director Todd Phillips yelled “action” on the set last summer with every move documented by the media, from President Bill Clinton’s visit to the set to Zach Galifianakis’ consternation with a possible Mel Gibson. Similar to the print campaign for Phillips’ Due Date, Warner Bros. employed a hysterical poster series with Ed Helms, Bradley Coooper and Galfianakis.

A number of promo stunts raised Kung Fu Panda 2’s profile including a Cannes press conference, a six-city tour of the Po panda Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon, and Super Bowl spot as well as a Facebook Cityville game tie-in.

Critics liked Kung Fu Panda 2 better than Hangover 2 with a glowing 80% fresh.

In a sesh packed with popcorn pics, Sony Pictures Classics and Fox Searchlight offered some smart-house marquee choices. SPC jumped its theater count for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris from six to 58 and landed the film in the top 10 with $1.92 million and a projected four-day take of $2.5 million. Fox Searchlight charted the third-highest per screen of $88,080 with Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life over the last year, behind Midnight in Paris ($99,834) and Weinstein Co.’s The King Speech ($88,863). The Cannes Palm D’or winner generated a three-day estimate of $352,320 from four locales in New York and Los Angeles.

Below are the top ten 3-day estimates and totals through May 29 with 4-day projections (where distributors have provided).

1. The Hangover Part II $86.5 million in its first weekend at 3,615 theaters. $23,923 theater average. Domestic total: $118.1 million. Friday-Monday: $106 million. 5-day: $135 million.

2. Kung Fu Panda 2 $48 million in its first weekend at 3,925 theaters. $12,229 theater average. Domestic total: $53.8 million. 4-day: $62.4 million. 5-day: $68.2 million.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides $39.3 million down 56% in its second weekend at 4,164 theater. $9,443 theater average. 4-day: $50 million. Domestic total: $152.9 million.

4. Bridesmaids (Universal) $16.4 million down 21% in its third weekend at 2,958 theaters. $5,544 theater average. 4-day: $20.8 million. Domestic total: $85 million.

5. Thor (Paramount/Marvel) $9.365 million down 39% in its fourth weekend at 3,296 theaters. $2,841 theater average. 4-day: $12 million. Domestic total: $159.7 million.

6. Fast Five (Universal) $6.6 million down 38% in its fifth weekend at 2,981 theaters. $2,214 theater average. 4-day: $8.3 million. Domestic total: $196 million.

7. Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) $1.92 million up 220% in its second weekend at 58 theaters. $33,090 theater average. 4-day: 2.5 million. Domestic total: $2.8 million.

8. Jumping the Broom (Sony/TriStar) $1.9 million down 49% in its fourth weekend at 939 theaters. $2,023 theater average. Domestic total: $34.2 million.

9. Something Borrowed (Warner Bros.) $1.845 million down 48% in its fourth weekend at 1,440 theaters. $1,281 theater average. Domestic total: $34.8 million.

10. Rio(Fox) $1.78 million down 62% in its seventh weekend at 1,672 theaters. $1,065 theater average. Domestic total: $134.8 million.

The Hangover Part II, Warner Bros. | Dir: Todd Phillips, Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti | What Comparing The Hangover to Bridesmaids Says About Hollywood’s Gender Problem | Todd Phillips Interview | Comparing The Hangover Part II to The Godfather | ThePlaylist: “A Lazy, Unpleasant and Unfunny Mess” | Will It Break Records Anyway?

The Tree of Life, Fox Searchlight | Dir: Terrence Malick, Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, The Sheridan, Laramie Eppler | B+ criticWIRE | TOH! Review | Review Round-Up | Stunning Images | ThePlaylist: “Bursting with ideas, images, sounds and a deep well of spirituality rarely ever tackled in either independent or mainstream cinema.” | Leonard Maltin: “the parts are greater than the whole.” | Eric Kohn: “More meditation than movie,..bound to mystify, awe and exasperate in equal measures.” | Palme d’Or Winner.

Kung Fu Panda 2, Paramount | Dir: Jennifer Yuh, Cast (Voices): Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jean-Claude Van Damme | Joe Morgenstern: “Hardly a scene goes by that isn’t visually striking or kinetically thrilling, and all of it enhanced by 3-D.”

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