question of the day: Is the biggest Memorial Day weekend ever a reboot for in-the-doldrums Hollywood, or just a blip on the radar?

There will be no living with The Hangover Part II now: It earned an estimated $134 million between Thursday and Monday in North America, and a comparable £13 million, also estimated at this point, over the same five-day opener in the U.K. In the U.S. and Canada, where numbers are more available at this point, the film had the biggest opening weekend ever and the second biggest ever for an R-rated film, behind The Matrix Reloaded (via Box Office Mojo).

But it wasn’t just Hangover II that did well. Kung Fu Panda 2 opened only moderately well, but the holdover films held strong, especially Bridesmaids, and new arthouse entries Midnight in Paris (from Woody Allen) and The Tree of Life (from Terence Malick) opened huge, relatively speaking. It made for the biggest Memorial Day weekend ever in North America (via the Los Angeles Times):

Americans spent an estimated $280 million at the movies from Friday to Monday, surpassing the previous high of $255 million set in 2007, before the recession, and blowing by 2010’s paltry $192.7-million take.

The Times means North Americans, of course: these figures include movie attendance in Canada… which did not, incidentally, enjoy a holiday on Monday.

So the question is:

Is the biggest Memorial Day weekend ever a reboot for in-the-doldrums Hollywood, or just a blip on the radar?

The Times notes some of the reasons why this could be merely a blip, not the beginning of a reversal of fortune:

With big films such as “Green Lantern,” the third Michael Bay “Transformers” movie and the eighth and final “Harry Potter” picture coming out before Labor Day, the domestic box-office tally could catch up to 2010 levels by the end of the summer. All three of those films and a slew of other big-budget movies will be released in 3-D over the next few months, though it remains to be seen whether moviegoers will opt for those more expensive tickets.

So far, no film in 2011 has surpassed the $100-million mark domestically in its first three days of release, a feat accomplished last year by four films, including “Toy Story 3” and “Iron Man 2.”

But there are other factors that may be keeping audiences away from theaters, namely higher gasoline and ticket prices and the increasing popularity of video-on-demand or subscription services like Netflix, not to mention video games and other digital media.

On the other hand:

“Good box office begets box office,” said Vinny Bruzzese, president of OTX’s motion picture group. “When moviegoers are at the theaters, they’re more exposed to trailers and have more of a moviegoing mind-set. It becomes a cascade effect.”

What do you think?

(FYI, I’ll be seeing Hangover II today and Kung Fu Panda 2 tomorrow, and will report posthaste after each.)

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