Weekend Report: ‘Monsters,’ ‘Haunting’ Scare Up Big Business

by Brandon Gray
Monsters Vs. Aliens

March 30, 2009

Conquering the weekend, Monsters Vs. Aliens invaded with a smashing $59.3 million, while The Haunting in Connecticut crept into a distant second with a robust $23 million. Showing that it's the movies that drive the market more than anything else after several slow weekends, overall business jumped 37 percent over the same timeframe last year, and the weekend was the third most-attended on record for the end of March.

Battling it out on approximately 7,600 screens at 4,104 sites, Monsters Vs. Aliens' opening ranks as the third highest-grossing of March, behind 300 and Ice Age: The Meltdown, and it's 11th among computer-animated movies (though, in terms of attendance, it would barely make the Top 20). While science fiction-oriented animation is typically a tough sell, the movie tapped into two popular themes: the tried-and-true alien invasion plotline that's worked from War of the Worlds to Men in Black and variations of well-known monsters, reminiscent of Monsters, Inc. What's more, the immense advertising campaign took a similar comedic approach as previous DreamWorks Animation titles like the Shrek movies and Kung Fu Panda.

With by far the largest digital 3D launch ever, more than 2,000 screens at 1,550 sites, Monsters Vs. Alien set a record opening gross for the format by a wide margin. All 3D screens accounted for $32.6 million of the $59.3 million weekend. Most of the 3D presentations were through RealD, which comprised over $25 million of that $32.6 million. IMAX had the next highest 3D share, collecting $5.1 million at 143 single-screen venues, or over eight and a half percent of the overall weekend gross from less than two percent of the screens. That's the third highest-grossing IMAX debut behind The Dark Knight and Watchmen and a new benchmark for a family-oriented movie, blasting past such pictures as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ($4.2 million) and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($3.5 million).

The Haunting in Connecticut resided on around 3,500 screens at 2,732 theaters, and its debut landed in the Top Ten of supernatural horror movies, shy of the like-minded The Amityville Horror (2005). Like Amityville, Haunting was marketed as being "based on true events" and was exactly the type of focused supernatural haunting that consistently spooks a certain crowd, featuring the kind of twisted images that have brought attention to The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Boogeyman and The Unborn (2009) among others. According to distributor Lionsgate's exit polling, 62 percent of the audience was female and 44 percent was 17-24 years old.

Last weekend's top grosser, Knowing, abated 40 percent to $14.7 million for a $46.2 million total in ten days. Its drop was smaller than most comparable titles, including The Forgotten. I Love You, Man held even better, off 29 percent to $12.7 million for $37.1 million in ten days. Role Models and Forgetting Sarah Marshall had steeper second weekend falls. Taking a bigger second weekend slide, Duplicity nabbed $7.7 million, down 45 percent for $25.8 million in ten days, though its loss was in line with other recent adult capers.

The attack of Monsters Vs. Aliens took a direct hit at the audience for the market's other sci-fi family adventure, Race to Witch Mountain. It decelerated 55 percent to $5.8 million, bringing its total to $53.5 million in 17 days, or slightly higher than Return to Witch Mountain adjusted for ticket price inflation. On the other hand, Sunshine Cleaning had a satisfactory expansion from 64 theaters last weekend to 167 theaters this weekend. The dark comedy modestly sparkled with $1.3 million, and distributor Overture Films has scheduled a roll-out to around 500 theaters on April 3.

Also opening nationwide, 12 Rounds arrived with a resounding thud, grossing $5.3 million on around 2,400 screens at 2,331 theaters. The previous action picture featuring wrestler John Cena, The Marine, debuted to $7.1 million. 12 Rounds' marketing was lighter than Marine, and its ads consisted mostly of Cena leaping from an exploding helicopter without any context.

Meanwhile, Watchmen's rapid descent persisted, this time dissipating 60 percent to $2.7 million for $103.3 million in 24 days. The superhero drama did lose more than half of its screens and showings from last weekend, but there were still many more than enough to satiate any remaining audience interest. On its 21st day, it crossed the $100 million mark, but it was the slowest of any movie that opened to over $50 million to reach that milestone (8 Mile was the previous low).

Last Weekend
'Knowing' Digs Up the Digits

This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2008 - '21' Scores
• 2007 - 'Blades' Takes Gold, 'Robinsons' Merits Silver
• 2006 - 'Ice Age 2' Hot, 'Basic Instinct 2' Not
• 2005 - Moviegoers Living in 'Sin City'

Related Charts
Weekend Box Office Results
All Time March Openings
Computer Animation
DreamWorks Animation
Supernatural Horror

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New MPAA Ratings Added