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'Hannah Montana' 3-D movie has record debut

February 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
First, she sells out a nationwide concert tour. Now Miley Cyrus and pop-star alter-ego Hannah Montana are selling out movie theaters in such record-breaking style that the film's run has been extended. "Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert," the 3-D film chronicling her recent tour, was the biggest debut ever over Super Bowl weekend, pulling in $29 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Distributor Disney planned to have the movie out for only a week but now has decided to keep it in theaters until it runs its course.

The concert film - featuring 15-year-old Cyrus both as herself backstage and as her Disney Channel character, pop sensation Hannah - filled the void for fans unable to catch one of the live shows on the Hannah Montana 54-date tour.

The digital 3-D technology also gave fans the illusion of practically being at a live show, said Mark Zoradi, president of Disney's motion-picture group, who visited several packed theaters where the movie played over the weekend.

"The screaming level was unbelievable. It almost plays like a concert. At the end of a song, you have audiences clapping like you do at a concert," Zoradi said. "Parents who weren't able to get concert tickets, now they were able to take their kids and satisfy that demand, and kids were in a way able to be up close and personal, with the best seats in the house."

The film surpassed the previous Super Bowl record of $21.6 million set by "When a Stranger Calls," which opened over the same weekend two years ago.

Lionsgate's "The Eye," a remake of the Japanese horror hit, opened at No. 2 with $13 million. "The Eye" stars Jessica Alba as a blind concert violinist whose vision is restored by a corneal transplant that also results in terrifying visions.

"Desperate Housewives" co-star Eva Longoria Parker delivered a dud with her first top-billed movie, "Over Her Dead Body," which opened with a weak $4.6 million to finish at No. 11. Distributed by New Line, the movie stars Longoria Parker as a dead woman whose ghost tries to break up a romance between her fiance (Paul Rudd) and his new girlfriend.

Playing in just 683 theaters, "Hannah Montana" broke another record: never before has a movie in so few cinemas premiered at the top of the box office chart.

The movie averaged a whopping $42,460 a theater, compared to an average of $5,337 in each of 2,436 cinemas for "The Eye" and about $2,327 in each of 1,977 theaters for "Over Her Dead Body."

The grosses for "Hannah Montana" were boosted by higher admission prices many theaters charged because of the 3-D format. Tickets for "Hannah Montana" ran as high as $15, roughly 50 percent more than the top price for other movies.

The success of "Hannah Montana" showcased the commercial prospects for an upcoming wave of 3-D releases, both new movies such as this summer's adaptation of Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and rereleases such as the first two "Toy Story" films in 3-D versions.

Digital projection allows sharper and more realistic images than old-fashioned film 3-D, a 1950s fad revived only occasionally over the decades. Now, many big studio films come out in 3-D versions.

Those releases typically do three times more business than 2-D versions, said Michael Lewis, chairman and co-founder of Real D, whose digital-projection 3-D technology was used in most theaters showing "Hannah Montana" and will be used in an upcoming wide release of another concert film, "U2 3D," now playing in limited release.

The 3-D technology eventually could expand turn theaters into venues showing live concerts and sporting events, Lewis said.

"There are a lot of places, a lot of small towns where we have Real D in place where U2's not going to go, Hannah Montana's not going to play there," Lewis said. "They'll be able to see it in theaters, and in my view maybe with a better seat and better experience than if they were actually there live."

Hollywood's box-office roll continued, with the top-12 movies taking in $101.5 million, up 43 percent from Super Bowl weekend a year ago. Movie attendance so far this year is up nearly 11 percent, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert," $29 million.
2. "The Eye," $13 million.
3. "27 Dresses," $8.4 million.
4. "Juno," $7.5 million.
5. "Meet the Spartans," $7.1 million.
6. "Rambo," $7 million.
7. "The Bucket List," $6.9 million.
8. "Untraceable," $5.4 million.
9. "Cloverfield," $4.9 million.
10. "There Will Be Blood," $4.8 million.

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Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; DreamWorks, Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros., New Line, Warner Independent and Picturehouse are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.

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Disney is the parent company of ABC7.

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