Zac Efron beat out his fellow tween idol Miley Cyrus to reign supreme as Warner Bros’ comedy 17 Againlaunched at number one with an estimated $24.1m opening weekend that gave Efron his second number one debut after High School Musical 3: Senior Year last October.

Hannah Montana The Movie tumbled 60.8% and three places to fourth on $12.7m for $56.1m. Overall box office surged as the top 12 releases grossed roughly $112m, marking a 20% gain on the same weekend last year.

In fact with the summer season waiting in the wings, ticket revenues are tracking approximately 17% ahead of 2008 year-to-date and admissions are up 15% factoring in rising ticket prices. The four-month blockbuster season is poised to spring into life on May 1 when Fox unleashes X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Returning the weekend, Universal continued its excellent run of form as the BBC miniseries adaptation State Of Play starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Helen Mirren debuted in second place on $14.1m.

Fast & Furious fell 54% and three places to fifth in its third weekend on $12.3m for $136.7m and is days away from overtaking The Fast And The Furious on $144.5m to become the biggest North American hit in the franchise. It is already the biggest international and worldwide hit in the series after adding $36m overseas this weekend for $145m and $281m respective tallies.

Lionsgate’s action sequel Crank: High Voltage did not perform so well in its first weekend and landed in sixth place on $6.5m, some way below the original’s $10.5m opening weekend in September 2006. DreamWorks-Paramount’s Monsters Vs Aliens remained in third place in its fourth weekend and added $12.9m for $162.7m.

In limited release Samuel Goldwyn Films’ race drama American Violet grossed $257,000 from 61 theatres, Story Island Entertainment’s drama Is Anybody There? starring Michael Caine opened on $45,112 from six, and the Broadway documentary Every Little Step took $72,600 from eight in through Sony Pictures Classics.

Notable too has been the performance online of Los Angeles and London-based media group Xlantic’s relationship documentary How Will We Love? by Xtlantic co-founder Chris Brickler. The film streamed free of charge on YouTube on April 11 and attracted more than 200,000 viewers in its first weekend, according to the publicists. It will be self-released on DVD on July 16.

Next weekend’s wide releases are: Sony’s thriller Obsessed starring Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter and Idris Elba; Universal’s drama Fighting with Terrence Howard and Channing Tatum; DreamWorks-Paramount’s drama The Soloist starring Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx; and Disneynature’s first release, the documentary Earth.

Estimated Top 10 North America April 17-19 2009
Film (Dist)/Int’l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date

1 (-) 17 Again (Warner Bros) WBPI $24.1m –

2 (-) State Of Play (Universal) UPI $14.1m –

3 (3) Monsters Vs Aliens (DreamWorks Animation-Paramount) PPI $12.9m $162.7m

4 (1) Hannah Montana The Movie (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $12.7m $56.1m

5 (2) Fast & Furious (Universal) UPI $12.3m $136.7m

6 (-) Crank: High Voltage (Lionsgate) Mandate Int’l $6.5m –

7 (4) Observe And Report (Warner Bros) WBPI $4.1m $18.7m

8 (5) Knowing (Summit) Summit Int’l $3.5m $73.7m

9 (6) I Love You, Man (DreamWorks-Paramount) PPI $3.4m $64.7m

10 (7) The Haunting In Connecticut (Lionsgate) Mandate Int’l $3.2m $51.9m