'WALL-E' tops boxoffice

'Wanted' is No. 2 with a better-than-expected take

Disney/Pixar's animated family feature "WALL-E" opened with a lively $62.5 million in estimated boxoffice to top the weekend rankings amid a dramatically ebullient domestic marketplace.

Universal's Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy starrer "Wanted" bowed in second with a surprisingly potent $51.1 million, giving both topliners personal bests and completing a one-two weekend combo that impressively punched up summer grosses. The $188 million weekend marked a hefty 21% improvement compared with the same frame a year ago -- the fourth session in a row notching year-over-year gains -- helping the seasonal boxoffice jump 4% ahead of the same portion of last summer in Nielsen EDI data.

Year-to-date, 2008 has inched ahead of the same portion of last year, at $4.62 billion vs. a $4.6 billion.

Among this weekend's top holdover films, the Warner Bros./Village Roadshow action comedy "Get Smart" dropped 48% from its week-earlier opening grosses to ring up $20 million in third place and shape a 10-day cume of $77.3 million.

"Kung Fu Panda" from Paramount and DreamWorks Animation fetched $11.7 million in fourth place during its fourth frame, pushing its cume to $179.3 million.

The Universal/Marvel comic adaptation "The Incredible Hulk" was fifth during its third outing with $9.2 million and a $115.5 million cume.

And the Mike Myers spoof "The Love Guru" from Paramount and Spyglass fell 61% from its first frame, to $5.4 million in sixth place with a $25.3 million cume.

In a limited bow this weekend, IFC Films' period drama "The Last Mistress" unspooled in a pair of New York locations to gross $35,192, or a promising $17,596 per site. An expansion into other major markets is planned in two weeks.

The IDP/Samuel Goldwyn documentary "Trumbo" debuted with $23,500 from two New York exclusives and one in Los Angeles. That represented a solid $7,800 per playdate, with the film -- which revolves around blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo -- set to expand during the coming weeks.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Picturehouse expanded its Genghis Kahn epic "Mongol" by 115 theaters for a total of 209 and grossed $784,590, or a solid $3,754 per venue, with a $2.3 million cume.

Sony Pictures Classics' literary adaptation "Brick Lane" added 11 playdates for a total of 18 and grossed $68,172, or a sturdy $3,787 per engagement, with a cume of $137,638.

ThinkFilm added a run for Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary "Encounters at the End of the WorldEncounters at the End of the World" to gross $54,100 from eight theaters, or a favorable $6,763 per venue with cume of $132,034.

And MCR Releasing boosted its Samantha Morton-Jason Patric starrer "Expired" by three playdates for a total of four in New York and Los Angeles, grossing $13,238, or an acceptable $3,310 per engagement, with a cume of $23,262.

The "WALL-E" bow was the fourth-biggest ever for Pixar, after the $70.5 million debut for November 2004's "The Incredibles," the $70.3 million opening for May 2003's "Finding Nemo" and a $62.6 million first weekend for November 2001's "Monsters, Inc."

A $100 million-plus production, "WALL-E" revolves around an adventuring robot and features a voice cast of Ben Burt, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Najimy and John Ratzenberger. "Nemo" helmer Andrew Stanton directed and former Industrial Light + Magic chief Jim Morris gets his inaugural producer credit.

About 22% of patrons for the wondrously reviewed film were couples without children.

"That basically tells you that the adults have heard the reviews, and they're coming," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said.

With the male-to-female ratio among patrons almost even at 49% to 51%, "that's also very telling (as it means) when parents are coming to the theater with the children they're both coming," Viane added.

Helmed by Timur Bekmambetov ("Night Watch"), the graphic novel adaptation "Wanted" totes a negative cost estimated at $74 million. Ever since an extended clip was shown at ShoWest at March, buzz has built on a film absent from the earliest predictions of big summer grossers.

Universal this year moved the film's scheduled release from March 24 to this weekend in a counter-programming gambit. To say it worked well would be understatement, as the bow represented the best-ever opening for an R-rated film in June.

"Wow-wee!" Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "It's just so exciting to have a picture that's rated R opening like this, and we're very excited that it over-performed everyone's estimates."

Rocco declined to say there would definitely be a "Wanted" sequel but noted Universal looks for such opportunities. "If I had to vote on it I'd say yeah," she added.

"Wanted" audiences were 52% male, with 51% of patrons younger than 30.

The film's outsized bow came despite mixed reviews, and Universal executives believe positive word-of-mouth will help "Wanted" leg it along an impressive run through July.

It will bear watching how the looming superhero movie "Hancock" affects the second-weekend performance of "Wanted" during the upcoming holiday frame. Sony will get an early jump on the Independence Day frame with a Wednesday bow for "Hancock," which stars boxoffice magnet Will Smith.

Also on Wednesday, Warners/Picturehouse's family film "Kit Kittredge: American Girl" expands into wide release of about 1,800 playdates, following two sessions in limited distribution. With "WALL-E" looking likely for a strong sophomore session, "Kit" will fight for attention among family moviegoers.

"Kit" grossed $109,999 from five engagements this weekend, or a rousing $22,000 per site, for a cume of $453,120.

Meanwhile, suddenly optimistic studio execs will be looking to the holiday-lengthened weekend for more evidence that the current swimsuit season can continue to outpace summer 2007's record boxoffice.

"We are making good movies that everybody wants to see (but) I do think the economy works in our favor. It always has," Disney's Viane said. "I still believe that moviegoing is the cheapest form of entertainment out there. And when times are tough and people are pinched, they can still go to the movies and have a reasonable outing."
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