(In paragraph 8, corrects ranking for "Angels & Demons" to No.
4 from No. 3; adds details on No. 3 ranked "Star Trek)
LOS ANGELES May 24 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.
The 20th Century Fox comedy "Night at the Museum: Battle of
the Smithsonian" sold $53.5 million worth of tickets during the
three days beginning Friday, far exceeding the $30.4 million
debut of its 2006 predecessor.
"Terminator Salvation" earned $43.0 million. The film fell
short of 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. That takes the
film's four-day total to $56.4 million.
The studios generally try to avoid each other when they
roll out their big movies. In this case, "Night at the Museum"
played to a broad audience, while "Terminator" was more
targeted at male moviegoers.
Time Warner Inc (TWX.N)-owned Warner Bros. said
"Terminator" was likely more affected by competition for older
men from the National Basketball Association playoffs, which
hurt business in cities like Los Angeles.
Fox, a unit of News Corp (NWSA.O), said the "Night at the
Museum" opening set a new live-action record for Stiller. The
film also opened in most international markets, earning $50.5
Last weekend' North American champion, "Angels & Demons,"
fell to No. 4 with $21.4 million, taking the 10-day total for
Columbia Pictures' Tom Hanks religious thriller to $81.5
million. By contrast, its 2006 predecessor "The Da Vinci Code"
had earned $136.5 million after the same period.
But the Sony Corp (6758.T) (SNE.N) unit has said it never
expected the second film to be as big, and noted it that it was
the top choice internationally with sales of $60.4 million. Its
foreign total now stands at $198.3 million.
Paramount Pictures' "Star Trek" slipped one place to No. 3
with $22 million, taking its total to $183.5 million after
three weekends. The studio is a unit of Viacom Inc VIAb.N.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)