Talladega Nights, Sony's $73 million NASCAR send-up, out-paced Scary Movie 4 as the top comedy debut of the year, and it marked a personal best start for lead actor Will Ferrell, whose box office had been stuck in neutral since his Elf breakout in 2003.
Sony's president of distribution, Rory Bruer, said that the studio originally hoped Talladega Nights would open to $30 million, comparable to Ferrell's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. "We really got everyone, young and old, red states and blue states," Bruer noted. Sony's exit polling indicated that the audience was 53 percent male and 52 percent under 25 years old.
The third computer-animated movie in three weeks, Paramount's Barnyard, milked $15.8 million from around 3,600 screens at 3,311 sites. It avoided the fate of The Ant Bully, which flopped with $8.4 million last weekend, but trailed Monster House's $22.2 million debut two weeks ago. The format, which has suffered from over-saturation this year, has an average opening weekend of $36 million.
"We're thrilled, because, most [industry trackers] didn't have Barnyard doing more than $11 million and some had us doing Ant Bully business," said Don Harris, Paramount's executive vice president and general sales manager. "This is the least expensive of all the animated movies out, with a budget of a little more than $50 million."
Gag-driven Barnyard, which incorrectly presented cows as male, had the Nickelodeon brand and marketing muscle behind it—the cable network routinely finds an audience for its animated features, including past hits Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and the Rugrats and SpongeBob SquarePants movies. Paramount's research suggested that 75 percent of Barnyard's audience was family with an even split between genders.
Also opening, British horror The Descent excavated $8.9 million at 2,095 locations, more than last summer's similar The Cave but far from another genre triumph for distributor Lionsgate. Miramax's The Night Listener, a low profile thriller featuring Robin Williams, drew a paltry $3.6 million at 1,367 theaters.
Among holdover, summer's blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest slid 47 percent but has racked up $379.7 million in 31 days. Last weekend's top gun, Miami Vice, plunged 60 percent, and the $135 million cop drama has grossed $46.3 million in 10 days. Director Michael Mann's previous dark action picture, Collateral, eased 35 percent from an opening comparable to Vice.
Overall weekend business charged 21 percent past the comparable frame last year when The Dukes of Hazzard, courting the same audience as Talladega Nights, claimed first place with $30.7 million.
• 8/1/06 - 'Miami Vice' Cracks Down on 'Pirates'
• 8/8/05 - 'Dukes' Charge the Top Spot, Emperors 'March' On
• Weekend Box Office Results
• All Times August Openings
• Car Racing Movies
• Computer Animated Movies
NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Aug. 6 and was revised on Monday, Aug. 7 with actual grosses.