'Princess' reigns at weekend boxoffice

Disney's animated film pulls in $25 million

Disney's animated feature "The Princess and the Frog" leaped into first place in the domestic boxoffice with an estimated $25 million weekend performance roughly in line with pre-release expectations.

"Frog" hopped to $27.9 million in cumulative boxoffice, including two previous frames of exclusive engagements in New York and Los Angeles. Warners' leggy Sandra Bullock starrer "The Blind Side" took second place with $15.5 million for a 24-day cume of $150.2 million, while the weekend's sole wide opener -- the Clint Eastwood-helmed sports drama "Invictus" from Warner Bros. -- grabbed the boxoffice bronze medal with $9.1 million.

Three pics marked decent sophomore sessions after soft bows, with Lionsgate's love-triangle drama "Brothers" falling an acceptable 48% from opening grosses to $5 million in sixth place and a $17.4 million cume. Sony Screen Gems' action thriller "Armored" dropped 46% to $3.5 million in ninth place and a 10-day cume of $11.7 million, while Miramax's Robert De Niro starrer "Everybody's Fine" tumbled from top rankings on a 42% dip to $2.2 million and a $7.4 million cume.

Collectively, the weekend's top 10 films rung up $84.4 million, or 8% more than high grossers in the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI. That marked the third consecutive session of year-over-year weekend upticks.

Among limited bows, Paramount unspooled the Peter Jackson-helmed literary adaptation "The Lovely Bones" in two Los Angeles locations and one in New York to gross $116,000, or an auspicious $38,667 per site. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Stanley Tucci, "Bones" will broaden on Christmas and break wide Jan. 15.

The Weinstein Co. opened Colin Firth starrer "A Single Man" in nine theaters and grossed $216,328, or an encouraging $24,036 per venue.

"It's a great little picture," Weinstein spokesman David Glasser said. "We think it's an excellent screen average for the picture."

Weinstein is committed to expanding the film significantly by Christmas, Glasser said.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Weinstein broadened Viggo Mortensen starrer "The Road" by seven playdates for a total of 135 and grossed $497,710, or an acceptable $3,687, with a $4 million cume.

Freestyle Releasing's drama "Me and Orson Welles" added 59 theaters for a total of 64 and grossed $176,192, or a thin $2,753 per venue, with cume of $342,867.

Sony Pictures Classics' Pedro Almodovar-helmed drama "Broken Embraces" added four locations for a total of six and grossed $115,164, or a solid $19,194 per site, with cume of $602,357.

Paramount's George Clooney starrer "Up in the Air" added 57 locations for a total of 72 to register $2.5 million, or a pleasing $34,027 per site. Cume for the Jason Reitman-directed dramatic comedy rose to $4 million.

The National Board of Review recently selected "Air" as the year's best film and tapped Clooney to share acting accolades with "Invictus" topliner Morgan Freeman. The NBR also named Eastwood best director for the South African rugby drama.

Starring Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as the captain of South Africa's national rugby team, "Invictus" drew opening audiences comprised 50% of females, with 69% of patrons age 30 or older. Rated PG-13, "Invictus" always was seen as a candidate to open modestly and build slowly over subsequent frames, in keeping with the recent historical pattern for Eastwood pics.

"I'm pleased," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "The reviews are good and word-of-mouth is good, so I have all the confidence in the world."

Ron Clements and John Muster, who co-directed 2002's "Treasure Planet," re-teamed to helm the 2D-animated "Frog."

The G-rated pic, whose African-American character Princess Tiana was voiced by Anika Noni Rose, drew audiences skewing 64% female, with 53% of patrons under age 25. Disney didn't measure ethnic support for the opening.

"It was a very typical family audience, but it definitely did play to all ages," Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane said.

Positive audience reaction to the pic should translate into good word-of-mouth and sustained playability through the holiday period, Viane added.

Looking ahead, two wide releases are set for Friday -- one of them a presumed whopper.

Fox debuts James Cameron's 3D motion-capture epic "Avatar" in a mix of conventional and extra-dimensional venues amid rapturous early reviews, which have raised already-high expectations for the sci-fi actioner's opening weekend. And in a counterprogramming ploy targeting older females, Sony sends out romantic comedy "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker.