Sixteen-year-old actress Miley Cyrus became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood on Sunday as her first nonconcert movie topped the North American box office, earning twice as much as Disney had forecast.
Walt Disney Co's "Hannah Montana: The Movie" sold $34 million worth of tickets at the three-day Easter weekend, as fans of the perky starlet rushed to see the first big-screen adaptation of her hit Disney Channel TV series.
Cyrus returned the favor, turning up with her father and co-star, Billy Ray Cyrus, at theaters in Utah and Tennessee and blogging about her wild weekend on Twitter.
"omgomg! my fans rock! the movie is doing great you guys! omg AND its all cause of you!!!! I LOVE U ALL! IF YOU HAVENT SEEN IT YET CHECK IT!," she wrote, using the "omg" acronym as shorthand for "Oh, my God."
As in her TV show, Cyrus plays a regular schoolgirl by day and a pop star by night. But her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) decides she needs to get back to her small-town roots, so takes her on a surprise trip to her old Tennessee home where love and other complications ensue.
Going into the weekend, Disney had hoped "Hannah Montana" would perform in the same range as 2003's "The Lizzie McGuire Movie," a vehicle for Disney Channel star Hilary Duff. "Lizzie" opened to $17.3 million in 2003, and ended its domestic run with $42.7 million.
On Sunday, the studio denied that it had deliberately set a low target. "It caught us by surprise. No doubt about it," said Chuck Viane, the studio's president of domestic theatrical distribution. "Outside of Wow! what can you say?"
Exit polling showed that women made up 80 percent of moviegoers, and 60 percent of the audience was aged between two and 17, Viane said.
Cyrus' previous big-screen outing, "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," opened with $31 million last year, ending up with $65 million to become the biggest concert movie of all time.
Disney will soon begin shooting another Cyrus movie, "The Last Song," Viane said.
Cyrus is now a bigger draw than Oscar-winners like Julia Roberts and Jodie Foster, who each had $13 million openings with their last movies, "Duplicity" and "Nim's Island," respectively.
Last weekend's champion "Fast & Furious" slipped to No. 2 with $28.8 million, taking the 10-day total for Universal Pictures' race-car thriller to $118.0 million. The studio is a unit of General Electric Co's NBC Universal.
DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc's "Monsters vs. Aliens" was down one at No. 3 with $22.6 million in its third weekend; its total rose to $141 million.
Also new was the dark comedy "Observe and Report," which opened at No. 4 with $11.1 million, falling short of the expectations of its distributor, Warner Bros. Pictures. The Time Warner Inc.-owned studio had hoped for an opening in the $14 million to $15 million range.
The Japanese-inspired fantasy "Dragonball Evolution" opened at No. 7 with $4.7 million, also a little lower than the modest forecasts of its distributor 20th Century Fox. But the News Corp-owned studio said the film is doing better internationally with sales to date of $37 million.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
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