- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

NEW YORK — “Angels & Demons” took the box office from “Star Trek” by earning $48 million in its first weekend of release.

The haul was far less than the earlier Dan Brown adaptation “The Da Vinci Code” — which earned $77.1 million when in opened in 2006 — but still enough to topple the popular “Star Trek,” according to studio estimates Sunday.

In its second weekend, Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek” took in $43 million, a strong number after its $75.2 million opening last weekend, excluding its Thursday midnight screenings. The cumulative total for J.J. Abram’s reboot of the sci-fi franchise is $147.6 million.

Sony’s “Angels & Demons” reunites Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard for the sequel to “The Da Vinci Code.” It opened without the benefit of the buzz and controversy that propelled “The Da Vinci Code” to a $753 million worldwide total.

Overseas business was again strong for “Angels & Demons,” which earned $104.3 million internationally. Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony, said the studio expects the film will eventually take in half a billion altogether in theatrical release.

“That chemistry [of Hanks and Howard] worked incredibly well with ‘Da Vinci’ and it looks like it’s absolutely headed in that same vein, certainly on a lesser scale,” said Bruer. “We never expected anything to the phenomenon of ‘Da Vinci.’”

Like “The Da Vinci Code,” reviews were not illustrious for “Angels & Demons,” but they were mostly better. Bruer called Brown’s action-packed best-seller “a far more cinematic story” than “Da Vinci.” In it, Hanks again plays Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon, who’s trying to prevent a series of murders at the Vatican.

“Sony positioned it well,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “They didn’t try to say, ‘This is going to be “The Da Vinci Code.’” It was actually quite the contrary. They tried to say this was not ‘Da Vinci Code,’ that it was a different kind of movie.”

“Angels & Demons” was the only new wide-release film of the weekend. Coming in third was “X-Men Originals: Wolverine,” which earned $14.8 million in its third week, bringing its total to $151.1 million. The prequel to the “X-Men” franchise, starring Hugh Jackman as the mutant with metal claws, had a steep drop-off in its second week.

Overall, it was another robust weekend of business at movie theaters, which have been drawing large crowds throughout the recession. Mr. Dergarabedian pegs the year-to-date box office at a 16 percent increase over last year. “We’re headed toward a record breaking summer,” said Mr. Dergarabedian. “If you’ve got a blockbuster in the pipeline, you’re very happy about all the strength of the box office right now. Momentum is key in this business.”

That’s good news for the two blockbusters opening next weekend: “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “Terminator Salvation.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com:

1. Angels & Demons, $48 million.
2. Star Trek, $43 million.
3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, $14.8 million.
4.Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, $6.9 million.
5. Obsessed, $4.6 million.
6. 17 Again, $3.4 million.
7. Monsters vs. Aliens, $3 million.
8. The Soloist, $2.4 million.
9. Next Day Air, $2.2 million.
10. Earth, $1.7 million.

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