'Wild Things' nabs $32.5 mil opening

Film beats expectations as 'Citizen' takes second spot

Moviegoers went wild for Warner Bros.' "Where the Wild Things Are" during the weekend, corralling an estimated $32.5 million atop the domestic boxoffice in an opening that outpaced even bullish expectations for the children's book adaptation.

The Overture Films-distributed crime thriller "Law Abiding Citizen" similarly exceeded expectations, bowing with $21.3 million in second place.

A third wide opener -- Sony Screen Gems' horror thriller "The Stepfather" -- debuted softly with $12.3 million in fifth place.

Paramount's expansion of "Paranormal Activity" into wide release went abnormally well as the low-budget ghost story scared up a mind-bending $20.2 million from just 760 theaters to nab third place on the frame. "Paranormal" totes a $33.7 million cume ahead of a planned further expansion Friday.

Universal's ensemble comedy "Couple's Retreat" fell just 48% in its sophomore session to $17.9 million in fourth place. The leggy performance by "Couples" advanced its 10-day cume to $63.3 million.

The weekend's top 10 finishers collectively rung up almost $127 million, or a big 59% more than top performers during a comparable frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

In a limited bow, Vivendi Entertainment's romantic-drama anthology "New York, I Love You" unspooled in 125 locations and grossed $372,107, or an acceptable $2,976 per site.

Apparition bowed urban action spoof "Black Dynamite" in 70 theaters and grossed $140,986, or a muted $2,014 per venue.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Focus Features added 76 playdates for a total of 82 for the Coen brothers' "A Serious Man" and grossed $860,257. That represented an encouraging $10,491 per engagement and shaped a $1.9 million cume for the well-reviewed dark comedy.

Sony Pictures Classics' Peter Sarsgaard starrer "An Education" added 15 theaters for a total of 19 and grossed $266,044, or an impressive $14,002 per venue, with cume of $504,974.

Directed by Spike Jonze ("Adaptation"), the PG-rated "Wild Things" seemed to cage both adult and family patrons -- but more of the former than the latter.

Unlike the typical family hit, "Wild Things" marked a modest 2% uptick Saturday compared with its Friday coin. Audiences were comprised 55% of females, with 57% of patrons under age 18 and 27% parents with kids younger than 12.

"It was pretty well balanced between families and non-families on Saturday, but on Friday with kids in school it certainly played to an older audience," Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said. "The reviews helped bring in the adult audience."

"Wild Things" outpaced the $26.9 million debut of 2006's "The Departed" to become Warners' biggest-ever October bow. The studio has opened nine films at No. 1 this year.

Village Roadshow was a 50% partner in the $75 million production, with Legendary Pictures and Warners each holding 25% pic interests.

Mixing live action with creature and digital effects, "Wild Things" features actors including Max Records as the boy protagonist and Catherine Keener as his mom with a voice cast topped by James Gandolfini. The "Wild Things" bow featured an outsize contribution of $3.1 million from 145 Imax specialty screens.

Helmed by F. Gary Gray ("The Italian Job") and toplined by Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, "Citizen" swore in audiences skewing 51% male, with about half of its patrons under age 25. Overture distributed for producer the Film Department.

"The picture overperformed, and the fact that it did so well on such a competitive weekend says a lot about the film," Overture distribution topper Kyle Davies said.

"Stepfather" attracted audiences comprised 54% of females, with 55% of patrons under age 21. Though the film's opening appeared constricted by audience overlap with "Paranormal," Sony execs were sanguine in light of the modest $19 million negative cost on "Stepfather."

"It's a good opening for us," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "We're pleased with the results."

Looking ahead, four movies are set for wide release Friday. Those include Fox Searchlight's Hilary Swank starrer "Amelia," Lionsgate's horror sequel "Saw VI," Summit Entertainment's animated feature "Astro Boy" and Universal's John C. Reilly-toplined "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant."