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3D Wins It as ‘Monsters’ $58M Eats Box Office

3D accounts for more than 50% of of the box office; ‘The Haunting’ takes in $23M

Moviegoers demonstrated a tremendous appetite for 3D animation this weekend, propelling DreamWorks "Monsters vs. Aliens" to an estimated $58.2 million — serving up the biggest box-office weekend of 2009.

Media by Numbers reports that "Monsters’" 2,080 3D screens — out of 7,300 total screens — accounted for 56 percent of the box-office take. In other words, ticket sales for 28 percent of the total screens contributed more than 50 percent to the box office.

"Monsters" also proved to be popular on IMAX 3-D screens. Those screenings earned $5.2 million — on only 143 screens — making the film the biggest debut ever for IMAX 3-D.

That’s excellent news not only for DreamWorks, which has announced all its futue animated releases will be in 3D, but also for DW’s competitor Disney and its slate of upcoming 3D projects.

Michael Lewis, CEO and founder of 3D technology provider RealD, said screenings on 3D screen contributed about $25 million to "Monsters’" box office. The take marks the biggest opening for RealD, which has installed 1,800 screens in North American theaters owned by AMC, Regal, Cinemark and others. On Thursday the company announced a new deal to add up to 1,500 screens in AMC theaters in the U.S. and Canada.

"We’re pretty over the moon about it," Lewis said. "We expect the ratio to improve over the week — 3D usually holds longer and people see it longer in 3D."

Lewis said "Monsters’" success could help convince Wall Street to invest in converting more theaters to digital technology, but business has been good for RealD despite the recession.

"Two thousand and six hundred of our screens have been installed worldwide. One thousand of those have been installed in the last few months. So despite the credit crunch, it’s a pretty rapid growth and we expect that growth to continue," Lewis said.

Still, "Monsters’" runaway hit will certainly encourage the conversion to continue.

"Every time another movie comes out that does these kinds of numbers, it’s further validation of what I think is a very good trend," Lewis said. "It’s a much better experience and people are willing to pay for it."

Elsewhere at the box office, Lionsgate proved that counterprogramming can work when a studio is up against a guaranteed hit. The studio’s PG-13 "The Haunting in Connecticut" reaped $23 million and landed in No. 2.

Meanwhile, the only other new release this weekend, Fox’s "12 Rounds," pulled in a disappointing $5.3 million in the No. 7 spot. Last week’s "Knowing" and "I Love You, Man" stayed strong, coming in at No. 3 and 4, respectively. Ticket sales for "Knowing" dropped only 40 percent and "Man" dipped a very small 29 percent.

Lionsgate president of domestic distribution Steve Rothenberg said "Haunting" performed better than expected. "The studio expected $20 million given its tracking. So, we’re very pleased," he said, noting that 44 percent of "Haunting’s" audience were between the ages of 17 and 24; 62 percent were female.

Rothenberg said "Monsters’" hit bodes well for the entire film industry, which could use the boost from a new, popular format.

"Hopefully, it will show everyone the viability of 3D films and hasten converting theaters to digital," Rothenberg said. "We had a 3D hit earlier this year with ‘My Bloody Valentine 3D,’" he pointed out. "We’re definitely going to try to do more 3D films."

Updated March 29, 9 am, Full story to follow:

"Monsters vs. Aliens" falls just shy of $60 million. The latest reports peg the film at $58.2 m for the weekend.

The final weekend estimates:

KNOWING – $14.7 m
I LOVE YOU MAN – $12.6 m
DUPLICITY – $7.5 m
12 ROUNDS – $5.3 m
WATCHMEN – $2.7 m
TAKEN – $2.7 m

Updated March 28, 11 am:

"Monsters vs. Aliens" has already exceeded the $50 million mark, followed by "The Haunting in Connecticut" and "Knowing."

Here are the weekend estimates based on Friday’s business:

KNOWING – $14.8 m
I LOVE YOU MAN – $12.1 m
DUPLICITY – $7.3 m
12 ROUNDS – $5.3 m
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT  – $2.5 m(cume will be 28.4)
WATCHMEN – $2.4 m
CORALINE  $290,000


Barring a freak nationwide natural disaster, DreamWorks Animation’s $165 million “Monsters vs. Aliens” will deliver the biggest box-office weekend of the year so far.

The Hollywood Reporter has predicted “Monsters” could hit $50 million; others in the blogosphere say $60 million. Or higher.

Opening on 7,000 screens — 2,000 of which are 3D-ready — the highly anticipated pic is propelled by enormous buzz and faces little competition.

Clearly, the other studios didn’t wantto mess with “Monsters.” Fox will debut “12 Rounds,” a $22 million Renny Harlin action film, in 2,331 theaters, and Lionsgate will release “The Haunting in Connecticut” in over 2,700 theaters. Both films could get a boost from the teenage and early-twentysomething audience that may not be into Day-Glo animation.

As the first of several upcoming big-budget 3D movies, “Monsters” is under tremendous pressure to hit stratospheric numbers. All eyes in the industry will be watching to see if audiences will opt to see it in the 3D format, in which both DreamWorks and Disney have invested the lion’s share of their time and money. DreamWorks Animation has said that going forward, all its movies will be in the in-your-face format.

“There’s a lot riding on this as a continued mandate on the viability of 3D technology,” said Paul Dergarabedian of Media by Numbers. “Every 3D film that is a huge success is going to emboldened financing of more 3D projects.”

“They’ve put the pressure on themselves,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s senior vp and general sales manager. Aronson said DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg set a precedent that was hard to live up to when he predicted a year ago that “Monsters” would debut on 5,000 3D screens – a number theater owners have failed to reach by more than half.

“Jeffrey made a point of telling the world that everything was going to be 3D. Once you do that, the die is somewhat cast,” Aronson said.

Perhaps a huge win for “Monsters” could encourage even Wall Street to free up the credit crunch in order to invest in efforts to get more digital projectors into North American theaters. “It certainly creates the impression that there’s less of a risk,” Dergarabedian said. “There are lot of other factors involved that could hamstring that, but it will make it easier to get this done in the future.”

Elsewhere in the box office, last week’s big $24.8 million winner “Knowing” could also pick up traction from audiences’ thirsty for action. And perhaps Julia Roberts’ female fans who didn’t rush out to see “Duplicity” will do so this weekend.

Indie “Sunshine Cleaning” also will continue to clean up as it opens in an additional 167 theaters. Overture’s little $10 million comedy increased its box-office take by 222 percent last week when it expanded on 60 screens.