Efron's comedy "17 Again," in which he plays the youthful version of a middle-aged man magically transformed to high school age, debuted as the top weekend movie with $24.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The No. 1 opening for the Warner Bros. movie solidifies the big-screen potential for Efron, who rose to fame with Disney's "High School Musical" series.
"There's no question that Zac's a star," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros. "He's such a hardworking, talented individual. He certainly has given his all to promote this movie."
Universal had the No. 2 movie with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck's Washington thriller "State of Play," which pulled in $14.1 million. Crowe plays a reporter investigating a series of deaths linked to an old college friend (Affleck) who's now a rising star in Congress.
Cyrus' "Hannah Montana: The Movie" slipped from first place to fourth with $12.7 million. That lifted the domestic total for Cyrus' movie spinoff of her Disney Channel show to $56.1 million after 10 days in theaters.
"Hannah Montana" finished just behind DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters vs. Aliens," which took in $12.9 million to raise its domestic haul to $162.7 million. Estimates for "Hannah Montana" and "Monsters vs. Aliens" were close enough that the movies could switch rankings when final numbers are reported Monday.
Jason Statham had a so-so opening for his action sequel "Crank: High Voltage," which came in at No. 6 with $6.5 million, $4 million less than the first weekend for the 2006 original.
The Lionsgate sequel features Statham in a race to recover his heart, which has been stolen by organ thieves and replaced with a mechanical one.
Hollywood maintained a record box-office pace with just one weekend to go before the busy summer season arrives May 1 with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," Hugh Jackman's spinoff of the blockbuster "X-Men" franchise.
Overall revenues were at $112 million, up nearly 20 percent from the same weekend last year, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
For the year, Media By Numbers is tracking receipts at $2.92 billion, 17.3 percent ahead of 2008's and well above the box-office pace of 2007, when Hollywood took in a record $9.7 billion. Accounting for higher ticket prices, movie attendance this year is up 15.6 percent compared to last year's.
The movie business is poised to top $10 billion at the box office for the first time in 2009, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.
"It's going to be a record year, because we've never had a start to a year this strong," Dergarabedian said. "Unless the world goes off its axis and spins into the sun, I don't see how we're not going to have a $10 billion year."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "17 Again," $24.1 million.
2. "State of Play," $14.1 million.
3. "Monsters vs. Aliens," $12.9 million.
4. "Hannah Montana: The Movie," $12.7 million.
5. "Fast & Furious," $12.3 million.
6. "Crank: High Voltage," $6.5 million.
7. "Observe and Report," $4.1 million.
8. "Knowing," $3.5 million.
9. "I Love You, Man," $3.4 million.
10. "The Haunting in Connecticut," $3.2 million.