'Simpsons' Leaps to Big Screen Success
Cashing in on 18 years of pop cultural prominence, The Simpsons Movie drew a stellar $74 million on approximately 5,500 screens at 3,922 theaters over the weekend. The $75 million animated feature helped propel the weekend to the highest attendance on record for the final frame of July.

The Simpsons Movie snared the biggest debut ever for a television adaptation, eclipsing Mission: Impossible II, and it more than doubled the previous top opening for a television cartoon adaptation, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and will soon surpass The Rugrats Movie as that category's highest grosser. The Simpsons's start also ranks third among animation overall and fifth for the month of July.

While the television series is still a steady performer in its 18th season, it is no longer among the most popular programs. Viewership was 8.6 million on average this past season, according to Nielsen Media Research, which means that more people may have paid to see the movie over the weekend than those who watch a first run episode.

The movie's success depended on former and casual fans returning to the fold, and the fact that it was the Simpsons in their first movie apparently was enough. After all, the prospect of a movie has been buzzed about for a decade, and distributor 20th Century Fox's ubiquitous marketing campaign offered no compelling reason other than that it was the Simpsons in a movie. The advertising maintained the franchise's brand of manic parody and random humor, from trailers pitching it as ugly two-dimensional animation in the age of 3-D to converting 7-Eleven convenience stores into the "Qwik-E-Marts" from the show.

"I think we did a great job courting the family audience and catching fantastic reviews," said Chris Aronson, Fox's senior vice president general sales manager, who claimed the studio expected an opening in the $40 million range. "It's a multi-generational appeal picture. You have people who started watching 18 years ago. They may not watch the show anymore, but the Simpsons are beloved."

Last weekend's comedy debuts, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Hairspray, fell 44 and 42 percent, respectively. Chuck and Larry held slightly better than Adam Sandler's last three major comedies, grossing $19.1 million for $71.7 million in ten days. There's less to compare Hairspray to as most recent musical successes had platform releases, but it's drop was a bit better than Moulin Rouge!. Hairspray scored $15.9 million for $59.7 million in ten days.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix posted another series low weekend gross, $17.7 million, but with potent summer weekdays it's accumulated more than its predecessors through the same point, $242.4 million in 19 days. It's the fifth highest-grossing picture of the season behind Transformers, which is now tracking ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End but slightly behind Shrek the Third with $284.7 million in 27 days. The robo-spectacle generated $11.6 million over the weekend, off 43 percent.

Opening in fifth place, Warner Bros.' chef romantic comedy-drama No Reservations garnered $11.7 million at 2,425 locations, which was in the low teen million range that many high profile romantic comedies have been relegated to in recent years. The market's other chef movie, Ratatouille, eased 32 percent to $7.5 million for $179.9 million in 31 days. It's on track to be the least attended Pixar feature but has done exceptionally well for its subject matter.

Live Free or Die Hard enjoyed the strongest hold among wide releases, down 21 percent to $5.6 million. Demonstrating better staying power than expected, the action sequel could exceed the attendance level of the original Die Hard.

Also debuting, I Know Who Killed Me, which did not feature the thrills in its marketing that its fun title suggested, eked out a skimpy $3.5 million at 1,320 sites, while golf comedy Who's Your Caddy? managed only $2.8 million at 1,019 venues.


• Review: 'No Reservations'

• 7/31/06 - 'Miami Vice' Cracks Down on 'Pirates' (Same Weekend, 2006)

• 8/1/05 - 'Stealth' Bombs, 'Wedding' No Longer Bridesmaid (Same Weekend, 2005)

• 11/22/04 - 'Treasure,' 'SpongeBob' Clean Up/article/ed3262514180/[/url]


Weekend Box Office Results

• Animated TV Adaptations

• All Time July Openings

• All Time Animation Openings

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, July 29 and was revised on Monday, July 30 with actual grosses.