Weekend Wrap-Up

Hangover Chucks Up From Top Spot (Again)

By John Hamann

June 14, 2009

The future's so bright, they've gotta wear shades

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Box office analysis got turned on its head last weekend, as tracking not only missed a very strong movie in The Hangover, the weekend estimates were also wrong, putting Up too far up (still with me?). It took until Monday to figure out that The Hangover had chucked Up out from top spot, making Up not the number one film for two weekends in a row (if you're confused, take notes). Then, The Hangover had a lot of hangover from the weekend, as its weekday scores were unbelievably strong, setting up a showdown again this weekend between Up and The Hangover. And there were two openers this weekend – like you care.

It's been a goofy ten days, but I'm very happy that what happened in Vegas, didn't stay there. The Hangover is suddenly the big thing at the cineplex, finishing last weekend with one of the biggest R-rated comedy openings of all time, and then holding those scores surprisingly well throughout the week. On Sunday, The Hangover was estimated to have finished second, earning $43.3 million over its first three days; but when actuals were counted on Monday, the correct three-day figure ended up being pushed up to $45 million. An under-estimation of weekend box office is something we almost never see. Films are often over-estimated so that studios can tell the press that their film is number one, even though they know that's not the case. An under-estimation of $1.7 million and a move from second to first is mind-blowing, so much so that I can't remember the last time it happened to such a degree at the box office. Things didn't slow down from there. The Hangover then had four consecutive weekdays over $6 million, something that Terminator Salvation couldn't do (it dropped to $3.7 million on its first Tuesday), Star Trek couldn't do (its first Wednesday and Thursday both came in around $5.7 million), and Wolverine and Night at the Museum didn't come close. American Pie 2 and Sex and the City - the two R-rated comedies that out-grossed The Hangover over opening weekend – didn't come close either. All of a sudden we know we have something very special happening at the box office, as we may be preparing to anoint the biggest domestic earner ever for an R-rated comedy. According to the LA Times, movies for adults are dead, so there must be a lot of corpses showing up for The Hangover.


Our number one film is The Hangover, Todd Phillips' hilarious word-of-mouth comedy, starring no one. After a fantastic opening six days, The Hangover continued its strong run into the weekend, recording a Friday gross of over $10 million. The movie finishes its second weekend with a fantastic gross of $33.4 million. It recorded a weekend-to-weekend percentage drop of only 26%, and had an electric venue average of $9,960 from its 3,355 screens, 86 more than last weekend. That hold is crazy good – the top R-rated comedy opener Sex and the City dropped 63% in its second frame and the second biggest, American Pie 2, fell 53%, as both of these films had big built-in audiences. Probably the best comparison now is Wedding Crashers, the surprise comedy of 2005, as the original American Pie is too old to be relevant and opened with less than half of what The Hangover did. Wedding Crashers, on the other hand, opened to $33 million ($12 million less than The Hangover, but still in the neighborhood), and dropped a similar 24% in its second frame. The Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn flick also had strong opening weekdays, not recording a weekday gross below $4.63 million, which is pretty much proportionate to The Hangover given the difference in opening weekends. The Wedding Crashers was unique because it didn't see the number one spot until its third weekend, as it had to deal with Johnny Depp and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the first two weekends. The Hangover could actually be number one for three consecutive weekends, as next weekend's openers are The Proposal and Year One. Sandra Bullock has never opened a film above $20 million, and Year One is far from a sure thing.

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