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Monday, February 4, 2008

'Hannah Montana' posts biggest Superbowl weekend ever

While the New York Giants accomplished what might have been one of the biggest upsets in Superbowl history, another improbably victory occurred at the box office this weekend.

Disney's juggernaut teen sensation Hannah Montana took her sold out concert act to the big screen in all its 3D glory in Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, and in turn posted by far the biggest Superbowl weekend of all-time. Shattering record books with $31.1 million in just 683 theaters (all carrying digital 3D technology), the Disney release averaged an astronomical $45,560 per theater, the largest per theater average ever for a film debuting in over 500 theaters.

Part of the reason for such a staggeringly high average was the fact that many exhibitors were able to charge much higher ticket prices for the 3D cinema presentation, in many cases as much as $15 per ticket, over 50% higher than average ticket prices. Regardless of that fact, the G-rated 1 hour and 14 minute concert more than doubled its next closest competitor The Eye, despite playing in 1,753 less theaters.

Though largely overlooked by most analysts this weekend (the author of this article included), pent up demand from parents and children unable to afford the inflated ticket prices of her instantly sold-out shows was apparently gigantic. By offering a 3D theatrical experience that could simulate the feel of a concert, at the fraction of the cost of attending a real one, Disney has discovered an untapped theatrical market that will surely be exploited in the future.

Hannah Montana posted the second biggest opening ever for a film featuring the 3D technology, behind only 2003's Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, which put up $33.4 million in its debut weekend. Game Over was released in 3,344 theaters. The debut for Hannah Montana surged past the $21.6 million opening of 2006's horror flick When a Stranger Calls, which debuted over a Superbowl weekend two years ago.

Horror films have replaced romantic comedies as the most successful counter-programming for Superbowl Sunday, so it's no wonder Lionsgate tapped this weekend to launch its poorly-reviewed horror remake The Eye. Starring Jessica Alba, the film debuted with an estimated $13 million, averaging $5,357 in 2,436 theaters. The debut was in-line with most estimates, though below previous years' Superbowl horror entries. 2005's Boogeyman topped with $19m, 2006's When a Stranger Calls broke records with $22m, and last year's The Messengers led with $14.7m.

In third was Fox's romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which took in $8.5 million pushing its cume to $57.2 million. Oscar nominated Ellen Page and her breakout hit Juno added another $7 million to its run, pushing its total to an amazing $109.8 million.

Eva Longoria's Over Her Dead Body debuted with a disappointing $4 million in 1,977 theaters, averaging a weak $2,036. Paramount Classics' outdoor comedy Strange Wilderness managed just $3 million in 1,208 theaters.

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