By Joshua Rich
April 12, 2009 at 09:10 PM EDT

Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana: The Movie jumped out to a big lead at the box office and never looked back on this competitive holiday weekend. The Disney Channel adaptation took first place with a hefty, better-than-anticipated $34 million gross, according to early estimates from Media by Numbers.

That total exceeds the $31.1 mil that Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert opened with a year ago (although this film played in many more theaters), and it amounts to one of the top April debuts ever. Among live-action G-rated fare, this premiere ranks second all time, behind the $42 mil that High School Musical 3: Senior Year banked on its first weekend about six months ago. And Hannah Montana: The Movie did it all on the strength of a solid A CinemaScore review from a crowd that, not surprisingly, was 91 percent female and 77 percent under age 25.

Coming in at No. 2 was Fast & Furious, which earned a solid $28.8 mil on an expected 59 percent drop. Vin Diesel’s car-franchise film has grossed $118 mil domestically — and about $200 mil globally — in 10 days. Monsters vs. Aliens (No. 3) was next with a strong third-weekend take of $22.6 mil.

Seth Rogen’s Observe and Report disappointed in fourth place, with just $11.1 mil. Despite critical huzzahs, the R-rated mall-cop comedy drew a bad C CinemaScore review from a crowd that was two-thirds male. Next stop for it: home video.

Knowing rounded out the top five with $6.7 mil. And the weekend’s other big new release, Dragonball: Evolution, was, as many predicted, a non-factor, bringing in $4.7 mil at No. 8 (and drawing a woeful C+ CinemaScore grade of its own).

Overall, the combined strength of the weekend’s top three films pushed the frame up nearly 50 percent over the same period a year ago, when the Prom Night remake ruled the returns. Thus, this is the third “up” weekend in a row — and second straight hugely up weekend — and, with a $137 mil overall domestic take, it’s also the biggest Easter weekend ever. Certainly, in Hollywood, that’ll be something to celebrate on this holiday. Have a good one!

More Box Office News:
Box Office Preview: Hannah Montana takes on Fast & Furious
Fast & Furious shatters records with $72.5 mil weekend
Monsters vs. Aliens opens at No. 1 with $58.2 mil
Knowing cruises to weekend victory
Race to Witch Mountain casts a spell at No. 1’s Box Office Chart

addCredit(“Kerry Hayes”)