News

'Open Season,' 'Guardian' Lead Weekend

by Brandon Gray
A scene from Open Season
October 2, 2006

The umpteenth computer-animated talking animal picture trumped the first Coast Guard movie in decades, and weekend business surged 13 percent above the same frame last year.

Open Season rustled up $23.6 million from around 5,000 screens at 3,833 theaters, which includes around $1.5 million from 66 IMAX screens. It marks the inaugural feature of Sony Pictures Animation, although Sony has distributed two computer-rendered pictures before, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Monster House, which corralled $22.2 million in its debut this past summer.

"This is our first time out and we don't have a track record or an existing brand that parents can look to," said Yair Landau, president of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment. "So we're very pleased to open Open Season comparable to the level of The Polar Express or Monster House that had the [Robert] Zemeckis and [Steven] Speilberg names attached to them." According to Sony, 77 percent of the $85 million comedy's moviegoers were families with children under age 12, while the overall grade from audience pollster CinemaScore was an "A-."

The influx of computer-animated movies in 2006 has lowered the bar for the format. Whereas before, Open Season's $23.6 million opening would be considered weak compared to the format's pre-2006 average of $40 million—Shark Tale consumed $47.6 million on the same weekend in 2004—it now seems solid after the recent low returns of Everyone's Hero and The Ant Bully among others. Sony Pictures Animation's next feature is the penguin mockumentary Surf's Up on June 8.

Kevin Costner in The Guardian
The Guardian pulled in $18 million from around 3,800 screens at 3,241 theaters. The Coast Guard action drama featuring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher was in good stead relative to such military-themed pictures as Stealth, Men of Honor and G.I. Jane. Buena Vista, distributing through its Touchstone Pictures label, reported that more than 50 percent of the audience was age 26 to 49 and couples represented 68 percent, while the CinemaScore was an "A-."

"We were trying to get between $15 million and $20 million," said Chuck Viane, Buena Vista's president of distribution. "We're playing for the long run. We knew we had a strong playing movie based on the sneak previews [two weeks ago]. [The appeal lies in how] The Coast Guard's going to work when everyone is evacuating. They're heroes of an everyday nature, and I think that heroism comes right through [in the movie]. These guys don't get half the credit they deserve."

If The Guardian wasn't a top gun out of the gate, its marketing is what may have hamstrung it. Television ads touted how the movie was among the highest scoring with audiences in Touchstone history and how it was a rare look at the Coast Guard, harkening the studio's exploration of Annapolis earlier this year. What they coasted past was the story and characters—it takes more than general heroics to excite potential moviegoers. Touchstone had greater success with the superficially-similar Ladder 49, which debuted to $22.1 million on the same weekend in 2004

Despite widespread sneak previews and aggressive promotion, School for Scoundrels chalked up a measly $8.6 million at 3,004 venues. The comedy was distributed by MGM but produced by The Weinstein Company. Television spots focused on the rivalry between lead actors Jon Heder and Billy Bob Thornton for a girl and Ben Stiller's kooky cameo instead of the "school" part of the title. The initial premise of the movie was about losers who are taught confidence in unscrupulous ways by Thornton.

Chris Pontius in Jackass: Number Two
Last weekend's top dog, Jackass: Number Two deflated 50 percent to $14.6 million for $52.1 million in 10 days. The scatological stunt comedy actually held better than fellow second weekend movies, Jet Li's Fearless, Flyboys and All the King's Men, though not as well as predecessor Jackass: The Movie, which dropped 44 percent.

For the fourth weekend in a row, The Illusionist conjured the strongest hold among wide releases, easing 18 percent to $2.7 million. The $16 million period mystery from independent distributor Yari Film Group has made $31.4 million in 45 days.

On the limited front, The Queen posted a promising $122,014 at three theaters in two days—Miramax's royal drama starring Helen Mirren opened on Saturday in New York City exclusively. Less showy, The Last King of Scotland, another historical drama, boasted $142,899 at four venues from the full weekend.

RELATED ARTICLES
• Review - The Guardian
• 10/3/05 - 'Serenity' Moseys to Tame Start (Same Weekend Last Year)
• 10/4/04 - 'Shark Tale' Slays Box Office Blahs

RELATED CHARTS
Weekend Box Office Results
Computer Animation
All Time September Openings

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Oct. 1 and was revised on Monday, Oct. 2 with actual grosses.



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