"Museum" comedy beats "Terminator" at box office

Sun May 24, 2009 3:38pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ben Stiller beat Christian Bale in the North American weekend box office duel between their respective "Night at the Museum" and "Terminator" sequels, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.

Reigning champ Tom Hanks fell to No. 4 with "Angels & Demons," although the Vatican thriller remained the top choice internationally.

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" sold $53.5 million worth of tickets across the United States and Canada during the three days beginning Friday, said 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.

The comedy far exceeded the $30.4 million debut of its 2006 predecessor, "Night at the Museum," and also set a new live-action record for Stiller, one of Hollywood's most reliable box office performers.

Stiller, 43, reprises his role as a night security guard, this time at the center of a battle involving historical figures at the massive Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The cast includes Robin Williams as former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and Amy Adams as aviatrix Amelia Earhart. The film cost about $125 million to make, Fox said.

It also enjoyed a strong foreign debut, earning $50.5 million from 93 markets, bested only by the $60.4 million haul for "Angels & Demons" from a similar number of territories.

"Terminator Salvation," meanwhile, earned $43.0 million in North America. The film failed to beat the $44 million start for the previous entry in the cyborg series, 2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," the swan song of franchise star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But the race between the two new sequels was closer than it appeared because Warner Bros. got a head start on the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend by opening "Terminator" on Thursday, when it earned about $13.4 million. Much of those ticket sales would have been pushed over to the weekend if it had opened on Friday. Its four-day total was $56.4 million.


<p>Actor Christian Bale is shown in a scene from "Terminator Salvation" in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters May 20, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Foreman/Warner Bros Pictures/Handout</p>