by Gitesh Pandya THIS WEEKEND
North American moviegoers stormed their local megaplexes as the Memorial Day holiday frame set a new record led by strong openings for a pair of Asian-set sequels. The highly-anticipated comedy The Hangover Part II
registered a scorching launch while the animated pic Kung Fu Panda 2
enjoyed a solid start of its own. The adventure tentpole Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
suffered a big drop in its second weekend but still contributed large numbers in third place as the summer of sequels drew massive numbers of ticket buyers into theaters making for the biggest weekend in a year and a half.
Setting the box office on fire, the much-hyped comedy The Hangover Part II
met with explosive numbers opening to an estimated $86.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the holiday weekend and a jaw-dropping $118.1M in the four days since its Thursday launch. Playing in 3,615 locations, the theater average was an incredible $23,923. It was the second biggest opening in history for an R-rated film behind only 2003's The Matrix Reloaded
which bowed to $91.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $134.3M from its late Wednesday night launch. The Passion of the Christ
ranks third with $83.8M over the weekend and $125.2M in its five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday debut. With Memorial Day Monday still to come, the Hangover
pic is expected to easily beat that five-day figure.
Moving the action to Bangkok, the new installment from Warner Bros. started its busy weekend on Thursday with a stellar $31.6M (including a huge $10.4M from Thursday night post-midnight shows) and held up well with $30M on Friday and $29.7M on Saturday. Sunday is estimated to drop 10% to $26.8M. After Monday's holiday, the five-day total should fall into the $135-140M range exceeding industry expectations. Reviews were mostly negative with many critics blasting the film for being a carbon copy of the original, but audiences enjoyed what they paid for giving it a solid A- grade according to CinemaScore.
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis reunited for the new tale along with director Todd Phillips and talk is already underway for a third chapter. The first Hangover
opened at number one in June 2009 with $45M and had tremendous legs finishing with more than six times that amount at $277.3M from North America alone. Audiences around the world responded giving Mike Tyson and company $467M worldwide making it the biggest R-rated comedy in history. The sequel brought back the main cast and crew, changed the setting thanks to a wedding set in Thailand, and kept most of the formula the same. The $80M-budgeted production entered the marketplace on Thursday with some of the highest levels of fan anticipation of any film this year.
Warner Bros. rolled out The Hangover Part II
in 40 countries around the world and grossed a stellar $59M which was three times bigger than the respective openings of the first film in those markets. The United Kingdom led the way with $16.4M which was the all-time biggest debut for an American comedy of any rating. Another English-speaking market that greeted the film with open arms was Australia with $11.6M. In both territories, Hangover
opened better than last week's bigger-budgeted Pirates
sequel. Germany and Russia open next weekend and the international tally is expected to soar quickly. Get daily Hangover updates this week by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.