First it was Miley. Now Zac dominates the box office.
By John Hamann
April 19, 2009
It's been a battle of the young superstars over the last two weekends at the box office, as the Miley Cyrus flick Hannah Montana: The Movie struck gold last weekend, and now Zac Efron is doing it this weekend with 17 Again from Warner Bros. For those looking for more adult fare, that was an option as well, with Russell Crowe's State of Play and Jason Statham's Crank: High Voltage. Was it a blistering weekend like the we've seen over the last few weekends? No. Was it still an extremely strong weekend for the month of April? You'd better believe it.
Our number one film of the weekend is 17 Again, Zac Efron's follow up to the High School Musical franchise. 17 Again earned a strong-for-teen-comedy $24.1 million from a quite wide 3,255 venues. It had an average of $7,39. After a very effective marketing campaign from Warner Bros., Efron was able to engage his audience for this one, and the result shows in the opening weekend figure. Considering that Efron has only appeared in musicals, there was a small gamble in dropping him in to a comedy. However, Efron's success is hard to deny. He's appeared in High School Musical (over $100 million in DVD sales), High School Musical 2 (another $95 million in DVD sales), High School Musical 3 ($240 million in international box office, $50 million in DVD sales and counting), and Hairspray (Efron was a smaller player in this one, but it did open to $27 million and finished with over $200 million at the international box office). So obviously, boy wonder did have an audience, and a slice of that audience came out to 17 Again.
It was fair to think that reviews for 17 Again were not going to be good, as the acting in those High School Musical productions is wooden at best, with Efron winning the pinocchio award. I was suprised to see early reviews as positive as they were, but this was just more effective marketing from Warner Bros. I expected notices to tank as the week progressed, and they did to a point, but leveled off on Friday at 61% fresh, although the 'top critics' number came in at a much lower 43% fresh. Most of 17 Again's audience is not going to care about critical notices; however, if Efron is hoping to attract new fans and have successful films, he's going to have do better than the High School Musical in terms of movie quality. It appears that he has done that, but I will be curious to see if 17 Again has the same kind of legs as Miley Cyrus's Hannah Montana flick, which I'll get to in a while. 17 Again managed a weekend multiplier of 2,53, and can often be an indication of future legs – the closer to 3.0 (or more) can often mean that legs will be there in follow-up weekends.
Universal takes second place with new opener State of Play, the thriller with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren (notice that Crowe now surrounds himself with Actors ever since the Cinderella Man/A Good Year debacles of a few years ago). State of Play was always too murky to be a big breakout success. It opened this weekend with a take of $14.1 million from 2,803 venues. It had an average of $5,030. This opening fits the new model for Crowe, where his films are not blockbusters, and open in the $10 to $20 million range. After A Good Year opened to $3.7 million, Crowe did 3:10 to Yuma, which opened to $14 million, then American Gangster, which broke out due to Denzel Washington with a $43.6 million opening. Next up was Body of Lies, which Crowe did with Leonardo DiCaprio. That one opened to a lower-than-expected $12.9 million, so at least State of Play is a small step up. Even better news is that State of Play is 80% fresh at RottenTomatoes, a big improvement over the 51% fresh rating that Body of Lies earned (and it may indicate a lessening of the Russell Crowe backlash). I'm looking for some decent legs for this one if positive word-of-mouth manages to get out, with a potential $50 million finish.