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The ''Hannah Montana'' concert movie is a hit

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Little girls love Hannah Montana the way New England football fans love their Patriots: They speak the same language, dress in the same uniform, and curse Gisele Bündchen. Okay, they probably don’t know how to spell Gisele Bündchen, but those girls still got a Big Event of their own last weekend: the 3-D movie Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, which made an astronomical $31.1 million in only 683 theaters.

Cobbled together by Disney execs in just 11 weeks for less than $7 million, HM/MC is a low-cost experiment in theatrical event programming. The seven-day run was expanded indefinitely after the box office receipts — which included $18 million in pre-sold tickets alone — poured in. (Fans began snapping them up on Dec. 1.) Now any girl who wants to see it in theaters can — and at about $15, the onscreen show is a cheap alternative to her much-ballyhooed sellout tour. ”This is the ultimate combo of a concert film and a movie,” says Oren Aviv, Disney’s president of production. ”Miley is unique. Sometimes you take a chance, believe in your talent, and you get lucky.”

Lucky is one word. Phenomenon is another: That $31.1 million translated into a whopping $45,561 per-screen average and set a record for the traditionally weak Super Bowl weekend. ”We are not inventing something new here,” says Aviv. ”Teen girls drove the giant grosses of Titanic, too.”

Speaking of Titanic, such a big bow for a 3-D movie has to bode well for James Cameron’s next project, the 3-D Avatar, out in 2009, as well as a host of other upcoming pop-from-the-screen films. Disney alone is behind a slew of them, including the critter comedy Bolt, Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and a Jerry Bruckheimer spectacular called G-Force.

So will 3-D finally live down its shameful past, full of cheesy special effects and blue-and-red paper glasses? Said one 13-year-old moviegoer who attended a Feb. 3 HM/MC screening in Manhattan, ”It was our first 3-D movie and we loved how in-your-face it was.” If Hannah Montana’s songs don’t quite have Hollywood suits dancing in the aisles, that quote has to be music to their ears. — Additional reporting by Loren Lankford

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