The big cheese: 'Ratatouille' tops weekend with $47 mil

4th 'Die Hard' enjoys strong five-day take

Moviegoers ordered up "Ratatouille," Pixar Animation Studios' latest offering, at the North American boxoffice this past weekend. While the sumptuously-animated, G-rated tale of a rat with a taste for the good life, fell short of the openings of the last few Pixar toons, it still debuted strongly enough — it tasted $47 million in 3,940 theaters — to dominate the pre-Fourth of July weekend.

While that was below last summer's $60.1 million opening of "Cars" and the $70.5 million debut of 2004's "The Incredibles" — which, like "Ratatouille," was directed by animation ace Brad Bird — it still positioned the film to make a run for a total gross of $200 million or more given that Buena Vista's Pixar releases usually gross four-to-five times their opening weekends.

If it had not been for the fact that 20th Century Fox's "Live Free or Die Hard" opened Wednesday, the fourth installment in the action franchise probably would have given "Ratatouille" a real run for the money. As it was, "Die Hard" posted a solid No. 2, blasting its way to $33.7 million in 3,408 theaters over the three-day weekend. Add in "Die Hard's" Wednesday and Thursday grosses, and the PG-13 movie, starring Bruce Willis as cop-to-the-rescue John McClane, grossed $48.4 million over its first five days, ending the weekend just a nose ahead of "Ratatouille" in terms of cumulative domestic gross.

Both of the weekend's new wide releases found favor with moviegoers. Cinemascore polling of the "Rataouille" crowd found that the audience was heavily female — 63% — and even though the film attracted plenty of kids, 46% of the audience was still over 25. The picture earned a top grade of A.

As for "Die Hard," its audience tilted slightly more male — 52% — and was older. Sixty-seven percent were older than 25. But it was almost as enthusiastic, giving the movie a grade of A minus.

The Weinstein Co., working with Lionsgate, expanded Michael Moore's new health care documentary "Sicko," to 441 theaters, and also reported positive reactions. Despite playing in limited situations, the film grossed $4.5 million for the weekend, notching a per-theater average of $10,208, second only to "Ratatouille's" per-theater average of $11,936. "Sicko" ranked ninth for the weekend.

Focus Features also edged its way into the top 10 with a 10th-place showing for "Evening," directed by Lajos Koltai and starring a who's who of contemporary actresses, with Vanessa Redgrave in the central role of a dying woman looking back at a turning point in her life. Launching in 977 theaters, the film grossed $3.5 million for a per-theater average of $3,584.

The traffic at the turnstiles boosted overall grosses, which for the first time in five weeks were higher than the comparable weekend last year. The 96 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter grossed a collective $155.3 million, a slight increase (less than 1%) over last year's comparable week that grossed $154.2 million.

Among the second-weekend holdovers, Universal Pictures' God-fearing comedy "Evan Almighty" slipped by 51%, as it moved from the top spot it occupied the previous weekend to third place. Grossing $15.1 million for the week, it has pulled in $60.7 million to date domestically.

"1408," the Weinstein Co. horror show being disributed by MGM, enjoyed a slightly stronger hold, falling by 48%. Picking up an additional $10.7 million, it has scared up $40.4 million to date.

Paramount Vantage's true-life drama "A Mighty Heart," starring Angelina Jolie, found it tougher going. The film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, dropped by 60%, sliding from 10th to 14th place. Its gross, after finding an additional $1.6 million in 1,350 theaters this weekend, now stands at just over $7 million.