'Horton' hears a ka-ching
Seuss juices b.o. in $45 mil bow"Who" says business is bad?
Fox's animated feature "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" hit all its marks during the weekend, when the animated family comedy featuring the voice of Jim Carrey opened with an estimated $45.1 million to top the domestic boxoffice and re-energize a recently slack marketplace.
Warner Bros.' prehistoric adventure "10,000 BC" dropped an acceptable 54% in its second weekend to take second place with $16.4 million and a $61.2 million cume. Summit Entertainment's mixed-martial arts film "Never Back Down" bowed about as expected with $8.6 million in third place.
The weekend was bolstered by high school and college students hitting spring break, but the session included at least one belly flop. The R-rated thriller "Doomsday," from Universal's Rogue genre unit, appears doomed for quick excursion to DVD after fetching just $4.7 million in a limp debut in seventh place.
Industrywide, the weekend's $119 million in collective grosses notched a 1% improvement over the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI. That broke a string of five consecutive downticks in year-over-year weekend comparisons.
Year-to-date, 2008 is 2% ahead of the same portion of last year with $1.84 billion in industry boxoffice.
Elsewhere during the weekend, Disney's family comedy "College Road Trip" drove into fourth place in its sophomore session, slipping a modest 42% from opening grosses to $7.9 million and a 10-day cume of $24.3 million. With "Road Trip" and the "Horton" opener both rated G, the weekend represented the first time in more than seven years that two top-five films boasted the industry's most family-friendly rating, Nielsen said.
Sony's leggy Dennis Quaid starrer "Vantage Point" finished in fifth place for the frame with $5.4 million in its fourth outing, shaping a $59.2 million cume. Lionsgate's heist film "The Bank Job" parked in sixth as the Jason Statham starrer used a teensy 17% slide from opening grosses to score $4.9 million and a $13.1 million cume.
In a limited bow, Warner Independent Pictures' remake of the German hostage film "Funny Games" grossed $520,000 from 289 engagements, or a thin $1,800 per venue.
Elsewhere in the specialty market, Focus Features' period comedy "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" added four locations for a total of 539 and grossed almost $2 million, or $3,618 per playdate.
Sony Pictures Classics' drama "The Counterfeiters" added 41 theaters for a total of 72 and grossed $450,769, a genuine $6,261 per venue, with a $1.2 million cume.
SPC's comedy "CJ7" added six playdates for a total of 25 and rung up $45,274, or a wobbly $1,811 per engagement, with a $107,568 cume. The distributor's Pierce Brosnan starrer "Married Life" added 13 locations to gross $104,755, or an acceptable $4,762 per site, with a cume of $185,083.
WIP added one screen for its Kate Beckinsale starrer "Snow Angels" for a total of three in grossing $26,000 and pushing the cume to $45,000. The three-day performance represented an encouraging $8,667 per playdate ahead of a scheduled expansion Friday into the top 10 markets.
IFC Films' skateboarding drama "Paranoid Park" added 20 theaters for a total of 22 and grossed $81,114, or an acceptable $3,687 per site, with a $123,981 cume.
Oscar best picture winner "No Country for Old Men" from Miramax and Paramount Vantage finally fell below wide release, shedding 690 playdates for a remaining 511 in grossing $528,000. That was good for just $1,034 per venue but brought the Coen brothers' thriller to a 19-week cume of $73.7 million.
Reviewers noted that "Horton" offered a less edgy take on its children's book material than a couple of Seussian predecessors, but its bow was roughly midway between the two previous efforts. Universal's "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" opened with $38.3 million in November 2003, and their "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" bowed with $55.1 million in November 2000.
"This is the truest rendering in bringing Dr. Seuss to the big screen," Fox senior vp Chris Aronson said. He noted that the "tremendous" opening represented the biggest of any release to date this year, with teens accounting for 40% of patrons.
"That's great news for us, as our playability is fantastic," Aronson said.
Audiences skewed a bit female and were comprised 53% by family patrons, according to exit surveys.
Co-directed by animation vets and helming newbies Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, the film's voice performances included contributions by Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and Dane Cook. Blue Sky Studios performed the animation.
The opening for "Horton" marks the best ever for a G-rated film unspooling in spring, outdistancing last March's $25.1 million opening for Disney's "Meet the Robinsons." It was the third-best spring debut among all animated films, after Fox's "Ice Age: The Meltdown" ($68 million, March 2006) and "Ice Age" ($46.3 million, March 2002).
Rated PG-13, "Never Back Down" audiences were comprised 60% of patrons under 21 and skewed 59% male.
"It's pretty much as we expected," Summit distribution president Richie Fay said of the opening. He added that opening grosses were on the high end of projections.
"Everybody is pleased," Fay said. "No. 3 is not too shabby."
"Down" represented the first release by the fledgling film company of a Summit-produced film. Production costs reportedly totaled just more than $20 million.
"Doomsday" audience demos weren't immediately available, but the film — produced for an estimated $19 million — had been expected to attract mostly younger males.
"You take a shot at a film like this," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "They're very inexpensive to make, and if it works, it's great. And if not, there are other ancillary channels in which to recoup (costs)."
Looking ahead, distributors will hope the spring break period will mean continuing market vitality for new films and holdovers alike. Wide openers over the coming Easter frame include Fox's remake of a 2004 Thai horror hit "Shutter," Lionsgate's urban comedy "Meet the Browns" and Paramount's Owen Wilson comedy "Drillbit Taylor."