'Happy Feet' dances to top with $41.5 million weekend

New Bond tale close behind in photo finish

The dancing penguins beat out the new James Bond at the North American boxoffice this weekend, though by a slimmer margin then originally reported Sunday.

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Happy Feet" on Monday reported a domestic gross for the three-day frame of $41.5 million, while Sony Pictures' "Casino Royale," a co-production with MGM, earned $40.8 million for the weekend prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The other new wide release, the poorly reviewed "Let's Go to Prison," bowed to $2.2 million and an 11th spot in the weekend's boxoffice rankings.

The films, despite their solid boxoffice numbers, were unable to top last year's numbers at this time, when Warners' "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" opened to $102 million and 20th Century Fox's "Walk the Line" opened in No. 2 with $22.3 million. In fact, at $145.5 million, the total boxoffice this weekend was down a steep 19% when compared to the $180.5 million earned this weekend last year.

Both of the top-ranked films scored well with audiences. "Feet," from director George Miller, earned an overall A- according to exit pollster Cinemascore. The PG film set in Anarctica's world of the Emperor penguins attracted 60% women, mostly mothers attending the film with their children. In fact, 56% of the audience was under 25, reaffirming that Warner Bros. hit its target audience solidly.

Sony's "Casino," which also earned an A- from Cinemascore, generated most of its audience from the over-25 crowd. The film, from director Martin Campbell, scored well with audiences and may be the best-reviewed Bond film ever. It's now the second-highest opener for Bond, behind 2002's "Die Another Day." Males made up 59% of the audience, who were there to see one of the longest-running franchises ever.

"Let's Go to Prison" from director Bob Odenkirk didn't generate much positive response from audiences or critics. Starring Will Arnett and Dax Shepard, the R-rated comedy earned a C+ with audiences. Attended primarily by males, the film was best received by the under-25 crowd, though they still only rated it a C+.

The other new wide release was the debut of After Dark's "8 Films to Die for Horrorfest" on 488 theaters. Released by Freestyle Releasing, the package of horror films earned $2.3 million and the 10th spot in the rankings.

"Borat," the weekend topper two frames in a row, fell 48% in its third weekend in theaters. The R-rated comedy from Fox earned an additional $14.6 million at the boxoffice and its three-week cume stands at $90.7 million.

"Feet" took the wind out of the family film holdovers in the marketplace. Buena Vista's "Santa Clause 3" fell 51% to $8.3 million, while Paramount Pictures' release of DreamWorks Animation's "Flushed Away" dropped a steep 60% to $6.6 million.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight Pictures debuted Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation" on 321 screens to $410,804. The film generated a weak per-screen average of $1,280. Warner Independent Pictures had better luck with Christopher Guest's improv-heavy "For Your Consideration." The comedy, which opened on 23 screens earned $372,012, or a per-screen average of $16,174.

The Weinstein Co.'s "Bobby" opened strongly on two screens in New York and Los Angeles. Directed by Emilio Estevez and distributed by MGM, the film bowed to $69,039, with a per-screen average of $34,520.

Picturehouse's "Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollack" opened on two screens to $5,526. The documentary from Harry Moses generated a weak per-screen average of $2,763.

Jeff Lipsky's "Flannel Pajamas" opened on one screen in New York this weekend. The R-rated drama from the co-founder of October Films earned $11,069. Its five-day cume stands at $14,483.
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