BIGGEST MEMORIAL WEEKEND B.O. EVER! 'Hangover Part 2' Shatters Comedy Records For $138M Domestic/194M Worldwide Total; 'Kung Fu Panda 2' Kicks Up $123M Global; 'Pirates 4' Sails Past $640M Cume In 12 Days

SUNDAY PM/MONDAY AM, 7TH UPDATE: As a frustrated studio bigwig who didn’t have a fresh film playing emailed me dripping sarcasm, “Yay, another day of counting other people’s money.” I told you to Memorial-ize this holiday because the 2011 North American box office slump is officially over thanks to moviegoers starved for comedy. Now the official start of the 2011 Summer Movie Season has set a record for the biggest Memorial Weekend box office ever — $275M overall for the 4-day holiday. Which easily beat 2007 as the highest grossing (when Pirates Of The Caribbean 3, and Shrek 3, and Spider-Man 3 ran 1-2-3 for $254M). And it beat last year’s overall total by almost +50%. YOWZA! Here is North American box office for the Top 10 movies:

1. The Hangover Part 2 (Legendary/Warner Bros) NEW [3,615 Theaters]
Thursday $31.6M, Friday $29.8M, Saturday $30M, Sunday $26M
Three-day Weekend $85M, Four-day Memorial Holiday $103
Five-Day Cume $135M, Intl Cume $59M, Global Cume $194M

It was one of the most anticipated sequels of the summer. And while the derivative content may have disappointed — oh, hell, I’ll just say it: this was shamefully just like the original (“The Wolfpack Is Back”) except transplanted to Thailand — the humongous holiday grosses sure didn’t. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” an exultant Warner Bros bigwig emailed me. One reason for the giant number is because 80% of U.S. colleges were out Thursday and Friday. So Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures’ Hangover 2 is the biggest 3-day weekend comedy debut ever, beating The Simpsons Movie‘s $74M. And it shattered all R-rated comedy records, both weekend and even first week numbers for Sex And The City ($56.8M/$79M). Hangover Part 2 opened after midnight Thursday in a wide 2,600 locations with $10.4 million. That was a big number and set the record for the highest grossing R-rated midnight show. (The previous record was Paranormal Activity‘s $6.3M.) It set another R-rated film record by debuting in 3,615 theaters. With the first Hangover in 2009 having made $44.9M the weekend of June 5, the sequel was expected to nearly double that for the same period, and then soar as high as $125 million according to some rival studio estimates for the five-day-long weekend. But even that was a modest guesstimate. (Warner Bros low-balled the five-day estimate at $100M.) Then again, this was a 2D feature without the higher 3D ticket prices. And it had only 33% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes going into this weekend. But the lure of a replay with the original cast including Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis under director Todd Phillips was irresistable. Exit polling showed that 51% of the audience was female, and 41% of moviegoers were aged 18 to 24 and 13% were under 18. Moviegoers gave the pic an “A-” CinemaScore overall, with under 18 rating it “A+”. The film played strong in both blue and red states with Los Angeles overindexing to lead the major cities. 

Internationally, Hangover 2 opened in 40 countries on 5,170 screens to a humongous $59m with 7.2m admissions, which is 3 times higher than the opening of H1 in the same markets. UK debuted to a massive £10.2m (US $16.4M) from 920 screens in 469 situations, making this the all-time biggest opening weekend for a U.S. comedy (all ratings) and the biggest opening weekend to date in 2011 (ahead of Pirates 4).

The studio’s strategy for selling Hangover 2 was “to stoke the very high anticipation coming off of the first movie by promising even more  outrageous comedy — an insanely good time with the guys you love in the exotic locale of Bangkok,” an exec tells me. The buzz for the movie transcended anything in the genre, and tracking had been at summer tentpole levels. The campaign kicked off with a teaser trailer in February, and a main trailer that launched on April 1st. TV was key, taking advantage of the highly-rated NBA playoffs and network primetime season finales. The publicity included a hosting position for Zach Galifianakis on SNL in March and Ed Helms in May as well as a heavy magazine campaign of covers. Warner Bros also participated in the National Association of Theatre Owners convention in Las Vegas and showed footage from the film. Press tours were completed in Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia, while screenings were hosted in Top 60 markets around the country. Online was also key to the sell with 13 million fans on Facebook (a staggering number) who regularly received content from the studio. In addition, there was a game based on the Mr. Chow character, and an omnipresent online advertising campaign.

2. Kung Fu Panda 2 3D (DWA Animation/Paramount) NEW [3,925 Theaters]
Thursday $5.8M, Friday $13.1M, Saturday $18.6M, Sunday $16.3M
Three-Day Weekend $48M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $60M
Five-Day Cume $66M, Intl Cume $57M, Global Cume $123M

DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 distributed by Paramount earned an “A” CinemaScore and its opening tally was on target for a 3D film with higher ticket prices. But its grosses started out slowly because only 10% of K-12 schools were out on Thursday and just 20% on Friday. The toon sequel built strength daily for the extra long 5-day holiday. Internationally, sequels always do better than in this country, and Kung Fu Panda 2 opened in 11 territories this weekend to a heavyweight total of $57M from 8,023 locations. The Dragon Warrior came in at #1 in nine of the territories it played in, shattering a string of records in the process. This opening represents 29% of the international markets on the film. Natch, it posted huge #1 totals in China ($18.5M from 5,540 positions) with Saturday’s opening day the all-time highest debut by a foreign film, exceeding the record set last weekend by Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 by a staggering 50%. Kung Fu Panda 2 became the highest grossing animated film ever released in 7 of its 11 debut markets this weekend.

Paramount had to position the toon so audiences understood what was new in this sequel about Po’s personal journey to discover who he really is. A teaser trailer was launched with DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind back on November 4th. On TV, the marketing campaign had spots running for 24 hours beginning with a New Year’s Eve Takeover on Fox, ABC, NBC, BET, and MTV carrying throughout the next day on kids programming as well as heavy frequency on cable networks. There also was a float at the Macy’s Day Parade, ads during the Rose Bowl Parade, followed by a pre-kickoff SuperBowl spot. A final trailer ran with Paramount’s own production Rango on March 4th. At the Kids Choice Awards, Jack Black hosted and had a conversation three times with an animated Po. Online, there was a first-ever in-game integration within CityVille, Facebook’s largest and most popular application, a Youtube homepage takeover last Monday, and then a Yahoo homepage takeover Friday. Footage was presented at NATO’s Cinemacon with Jack making a presentation in person. A worldwide junket and photo op was done at the Cannes Film Festival with Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman joining Black there. A giant Hollywood premiere was held at Mann’s Chinese Theater, followed by a first ever live morning premiere last Tuesday in NYC. Jack surprised audiences of The Today Show with tickets. The Atlanta Zoo named a newborn panda Po in honor of Kung Fu Panda 2 and Black went to the naming ceremony. Furthermore, there was outreach to both the Girl Scouts and Martial Arts schools. Phew!  

3. Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 3D (Disney) Week 2 [4,164 Theaters]
Friday $10.8M, Saturday $15.1M, Sunday $13.3M
Three-Day Weekend $40M (-45%), Four-Day Memorial Holiday $51M
Cume $164.6M, Intl Cume $483M, Global Cume $647M

This weekend Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 crossed the $600M global threshhold in only 12 days after releasing into 100% of its international markets, which the studio says matched the industry speed record set by Pirates Of The Caribbean 3 back in 2007. It’s the #1 release of 2011 globally and now stands as the 6th biggest overseas release ever for Disney. Its international tally is now $483M and global cume $647M as of through Monday.

4. Bridesmaids (Universal) Week 3 [2,958 Theaters]
Friday $4.6M, Saturday $6M, Sunday $6.4M
Three-Day Weekend $17M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $21.4M
Cume $90M

5. Thor 3D (Marvel/Disney/Paramount Week 4 [3,296 Theaters]
Friday $2.4M, Saturday $3.5M, Sunday $3.6M
Three-Day Weekend $9.5M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $12M
Cume $162.3M

6. Fast Five (Universal) Week 5 [2,982 Theaters]
Friday $1.8M, Saturday $2.4M, Sunday $2.3M
Three-Day Weekend $6.5M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $8.2M
Cume $197.6M, Intl Cume $346M, Global Cume $545M

Overseas, Fast Five grossed an estimated $13.3M at 7,700 dates in 61 territories and raised its international total to $346M this weekend. Combined with the domestic estimate, the worldwide cume will reach nearly $545M on Monday starting its 6th week abroad. International will cross $350M and domestic will cross $200M this week.

7. Midnight In Paris (Sony Classics) Week 2 [58 Theaters]
Friday $474K, Saturday $775K, Sunday $472K
Three-Day Weekend $2M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $2.6M
Cume $3.5M

8. Something Borrowed (Warner Bros) Week 4 [1,440 Theaters]
Friday $550K, Saturday $700K, Sunday $750K
Three-Day Weekend $2M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $2.4M
Cume $35.3M

9. Jumping The Broom (TriStar/Sony) Week 4 [939 Theaters]
Friday $475K, Saturday $800K, Sunday $680K
Three-Day Weekend $1.8M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $2.2M
Cume $35.1M

10. Rio 3D (Blue Sky Studio/Fox) Week 7 [1,672 Theaters]
Friday $420K, Saturday $720K, Sunday $640K
Three-Day Weekend $1.7M, Four-Day Memorial Holiday $2.2M
Cume $135.1M, International Cume $321.9M

Fox Searchlight’s recent Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or winner The Tree Of Life from filmmaker Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain, broke records this weekend with every prime and evening show sold out in all locations (2 in NY and 2 in LA). It grossed grossed $352,320, with a theater average of $88,080. This will be  the highest opening average of any Fox Searchlight film — even ahead of Black Swan‘s $80,000 per theatre. The grosses are even more impressive when you consider the film is 2½ hours long (and therefore gets significantly fewer showings). Playing in the Arclight in Hollywood, the Landmark in West LA, as well as the Lincoln Plaza and the Sunshine in New York, the film had a very traditional art house roll out. Next weekend, it will open in exclusive engagements in an additional 8 cities while adding just 3 additional theaters in both New York and Los Angeles. Expansions are planned and booked for the succeeding four weeks when the film will reach its national release on July 1. Malick’s signature imagery and complex storyline in this fifth film earned a 92% rating on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. But its rollout indicated more interest than just cinephiles. (more…)

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