A Winning "Proposal" at the Box Office

By DAVID GERMAIN
|  Monday, Jun 22, 2009  |  Updated 12:15 AM PDT
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Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds topped the box office with ' 'The Proposal' this weekend.

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LOS ANGELES – Movie audiences accepted a proposal from Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, who scored the summer's first big romantic comedy hit.

Bullock and Reynolds' "The Proposal" took in $34.1 million to open as the weekend's No. 1 movie, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Disney flick delivered the biggest opening ever for Bullock, nearly double that of her previous best of $17.6 million for the 2007 paranormal thriller "Premonition."

Bullock stars as a ruthless publishing executive who coerces her put-upon assistant (Reynolds) into a fake marriage so she can avoid deportation back to her native Canada.

"I think the market was ready for a really fun, broad romantic comedy," said Mark Zoradi, president of Disney's motion-picture group.

"The Proposal" took over the top spot from the Warner Bros. bachelor-party comedy "The Hangover," which slipped to second place with $26.9 million. A surprise smash hit, "The Hangover" raised its total to $152.9 million.

Disney's animated adventure "Up" was No. 3 with $21.3 million, lifting its total to $224.1 million and following Paramount's "Star Trek" as the second movie of 2009 to cross the $200 million mark.

Debuting in the fourth spot with $20.2 million was Sony's caveman comedy "Year One," starring Jack Black and Michael Cera as Neanderthals on a road trip after they are banished from their village.

It was summer's second big-name comedy set in prehistoric times to take a back seat to a wedding-themed romp. Will Ferrell's "Land of the Lost" opened at No. 3 in early June, the same weekend "The Hangover" pulled off a No. 1 upset.

"June is officially comedy month at the theaters. Comedy is really ruling things," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com.

Woody Allen's latest comedy, "Whatever Works," had a strong start in limited release, hauling in $280,720 in nine theaters for an average of $31,191 a cinema. That compares to an average of $11,163 in 3,056 theaters for "The Proposal" and $6,684 in 3,022 cinemas for "Year One."

Released by Sony Pictures Classics, "Whatever Works" stars Larry David as a misanthropic New Yorker who forges unlikely relationships with a conservative Southern family (Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr.).

While some of June's comedies performed well, the month generally has been a downer for Hollywood, which tore through the first part of the year with a record box-office pace.

Revenues this weekend were up slightly compared to the same period a year ago, but that followed three straight weekends of declining box-office receipts.

For the year, revenue remains up a solid 10 percent, though summer ticket sales are dead even with last year's, Dergarabedian said.

That should turn around this coming weekend with the debut of the blockbuster sequel "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which industry analysts say could deliver the year's first $100 million opening.

Paramount's "Transformers" sequel got off to a big start in Great Britain and Japan, where it opened this weekend in advance of its U.S. debut Wednesday, pulling in $14.1 million in Britain and $5.8 million in Japan.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Proposal," $34.1 million.

2. "The Hangover," $26.9 million.

3. "Up," $21.3 million.

3. "Year One," $20.2 million.

5. "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," $11.3 million.

6. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," $7.3 million.

7. "Star Trek," $4.7 million.

8. "Land of the Lost," $4 million.

9. "Imagine That," $3.1 million.

10. "Terminator Salvation," $3.07 million.

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