Box Office Report: 'Puss in Boots' Braves Halloween Weekend to Collect a Record $34 Million

 DreamWorks Animation SKG

Competing against Halloween parties and contending with an unseasonal blizzard in the Northeast, DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots, distributed by Paramount, purred its way to the top spot at the North American boxoffice with an estimated $34 million. That amounted to a new Halloween weekend record, leaping over the $33.6 million that Saw III registered in 2006.

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But the weekend’s two other new wide releases displayed far less derring-do. Fox’s sci-fi tale In Time, starring Justin Timberlake, debuted in third place with $12 million, while the Johnny Depp starrer, The Rum Diary, released by FilmDistrict had to settle for a sobering $5 million and a fifth place showing.

Meanwhile, another animated movie, Steven Spielberg's Tintin got off to a strong start in 19 foreign markets where it collected an estimated $55.8 million. In 17 of those markets, it opened at number one, including the United Kingdom, where it took in $10.7 million and France, where it amassed $21.5 million. While Paramount handled the film in the U.K., Sony rolled it out in the other territories. The movie opens stateside via Paramount on Dec. 21.

While Puss challenged the holiday – Halloween weekend is usually reserved for scary movies rather than family fare – a ghost story did hold down the second slot as Paramount’s Paranormal Activity 3 slid 65 percent as it entered its second weekend. The second prequel to 2009’s original Paranormal Activity, the new movie took in an additional $18.5 million to bring its domestic gross to $81.3 million.

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In addition to Puss and Paranormal, Paramount also had a third entry in the top five as the toe-tapping Footloose, in its third weekend, took in $5.4 million for fourth-place standing, bringing its domestic total to $38.4 million.

Overall, business in North America totalled $96.3 million, up eight percent from the comperable weekend last year, but it would have been higher if it were not for the freak snowstorm that affected the Northeast. While Saturday grosses in Los Angeles were up 36 percent over Friday's numbers, the Saturday returns in New York were up only seven percent. DWA estimated that Puss would probably have grossed a few million dollars more if it hadn't encountered the bad weather.

A spin-off from DWA's popular Shrek franchise, the PG-rated Puss, directed by Chris Miller, opened below the norm for most of DWA's movies. The company, though, made a calculated move by shifting the film's release, originally scheduled for Nov. 4 up a week to a weekend not traditionally used to launch family films because of the competing holiday activities. Now, Puss, which earned an A- CinemaScore,  has two more open weekends ahead of it before an onslaught of family movies that begin to hit theaters on Nov. 18 when Warners' Happy Feet Two opens.

"The movie came in close to where we expected, given the holiday weekend," said DWA chief marketing officer Anne Globe. "We think we're well positioned to take advantage of the next two weekends."

In terms of its audience, the animated flick, which opened in 3,952 theaters, skewed female (59 percent) and 55 percent of moviegoers were 25 or over. Kids under 12 made up 32 percent of the audience, while parents represented 36 percent of the total.

The film did particularly well with Latinos, who made up 35 percent of its audience. DWA had made a particular bid for that demographic, given that the movie features Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, voicing the feline characters. The studio had a major tie-in with Univision, and four of the top-ten theaters showing the movie turned out to be in the Miami area.

The film, which got a number of good reviews for its use of 3D, also saw an uptick in the percentage of its gross which came from 3D theaters, with 51 percent of the total coming from 3D houses and seven percent of its total coming from Imax screens.

In Time's $12 million debut won't boost Timberlake's standing as a box office draw, "But even though we were up against game seven of the World Series on Friday and a pretty severe storm on Saturday, we still came in right around pre-release expectations," Fox distribution exec Chris Aronson said. The PG-13 movie, produced by New Regency for $35 million, directed by Andrew Niccol and also starring Amanda Seyfried, opened in 3,122 theaters. While its overall CinemaScore rating was B-, younger audiences were more positive about the movie, set in a world where no one ages over 25. Younger males gave it an A- and younger females gave it a B+, "So we think there's a lot of playability in the picture, Aronson said.

With Rum Diary, Depp returned to the world of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Depp, a friend of Thompson's, played him in the 1998 film version of the writer's psychedlic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And the character he plays in Rum Diary, based on a novel that Thompson published in 1998, is a fictionalized version of the author, recounting his earlier adventures in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. The mass audience wasn't buying, though.

Directed by Bruce Robinson and produced by Depp's Infinitum Nihil and Graham King's GK Films, the R-rated movie opened in 2,272 theaters, where it found just $5 million. Depp himself did a lot of grass roots promotion on behalf of the film, which was shot in 2009, but held back from release until Depp was free from commitments to his most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie and filming of the upcoming Dark Shadows, so he could go on the road to promote the movie. In addition to a Vanity Fair cover, he did a college tour, visiting UC Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University.

But said FilmDistrict president of theatrical distribution president Bob Berney, "Probably at the end of the day the whole Hunter thing attracts more of a cult audience. While he and Johnny were best friends and the movie is a tribute to Hunter, Hunter is stilll a little too extreme for the mainstream." While the film played well in Manhattan and Los Angeles, the futher it went into the suburbs, the more it dropped off, Berney noted, predicting it would find an audience in home video like Fear and Loathing, which only grossed $10.7 million domestically, did.

On other fronts, Sony, which pulled back Roland Emmerich's Shakespearean conspiracy tale Anonymous from wide release a few weeks ago, introduced the PG-13 movie starring Rhys Ifans in 265 theaters, where it collected $1 million for a per-screen average of $3,774. The movie, which played to an older crowd (65 percent were over 30), earned a CinemaScore of  A-, which bodes well, the studio said, for its larger rollout.

As it entered its second weekend, Paranormal Activity 3 experienced a drop-off typical of most horror movies, but it still took home an added $18.5 million, bringing its domestic tally to $81.3 million. That puts it ahead of the $65.7 million that last year's Paranormal movie grossed by the end of its second weekend. "We're having a lot of fun with it," said Megan Colligan, Paramount president of domestic marketing and distribution. "it's got a great fan base that gets out there in the social media and really talks about the movie."

Paramount also used the weekend to debut Like Crazy on the specialty front in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles under its Paramount Vantage label. Directed by Drake Doremus, the PG-13 movie, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as college-age lovers torn apart by visa problems. It grossed $120,000 for a powerful per-screen average of $30,000. 

Next weekend, the movie will move up to 16 theaters in ten markets. "I think we have a very nice window here," Colligan said, "because the movie plays strongly to both 20-something moviegoers and the older, more sophisticated art house audience."

Also in limited release, Roadside's financial thriller Margin Call began its second weekend by moving from 56 theaters into 140 and picked up $713,285 to bring its domestic total to $1.5 million. Also entering week two, Fox Searchlight's Martha Marcy May Marlene moved from four theaters to 32, taking in $240,550 to bring its total to $439,544.

And, proving that there is money to be made in alternative programming, the Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Don Giovanni, beamed to 805 screens in North America via The Met: Live in HD, attracted an estimated 107,000 patrons and a gross of $2.3 million in North America.

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