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Sunday, June 29, 2008

'Wall-e' and 'Wanted' dominate box office with $113m combined, June 27-29, 2008

Pixar-Disney's Wall-e opened strong but slightly under expectations while Universal's R-rated actioner Wanted blew past industry targets as the two films pushed the box office to its highest total of 2008 with a combined $113 million. It was the first time in history that two films have opened with more than $50 million over the same weekend, a sign that the box office has heated up heading into the all important July 4th weekend.

Buoyed by a heavy marketing blitz and a tidal wave of stellar reviews flooding in late in the week (critics polled by Rottentomatoes.com made Wall-e the highest rated film of 2008 with a 97% "fresh" score), the Andrew Stanton directed animated feature bowed with $63.1 million (official number) giving Pixar its third highest debut ever. Only 2004's The Incredibles ($70.5m), 2003's Finding Nemo ($70.3m) have opened larger, while the updated total surpassed 2001's Monsters, Inc. with $62.6m.

Launching in 3,992 theaters for a strong $15,656 average, Wall-e became the ninth straight No. 1 debut for the computer-animation powerhouse Pixar, also giving parent company Disney its biggest opening of 2008. Reviews for the G-rated sci-fi adventure were so strong in fact that there is already some talk of Wall-e being considered for Best Picture at next year's Oscars. Its strong performance at the box office is more of a mixed bag when you delve into the numbers.

Handily surpassing the debut of last year's acclaimed Oscar-winner Ratatouille ($47m) and edging past Cars' $60.1m in 2006, Wall-e actually posted the biggest opening day total of any film in the Pixar stable, earning $23.1 million on Friday alone. But while most animated features normally see an uptick in sales on Saturday when more families can go to the cineplex, the $180 million budgeted Wall-e slipped 5% to $22 million, falling another 21% on Sunday to $17.4 million. Time will tell whether word of mouth is weaker than expected or if Saturday's drop had more to do with Friday being such a big day (Disney reported that a sizeable percentage of couples attended showings on Friday). By comparison, DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda took in $20.3 million on its first day, seing an 11% uptick to $22.6 million on Saturday and $60.2 million over its debut weekend.

Though not the record take Disney was perhaps hoping for, Wall-e still managed to surpass expectations set earlier in the year when the notion of an animated film featuring virtually no dialogue in its first act making a big splash at the box office seemed like a tough sell. Set in a post-apocalyptic future Earth, the sci-fi themes and sensational reviews seemed to pique the interest of adult audiences as well, with 41% of moviegoers aged 25 or older. Carrying a CinemaScore rating of an A and reviews for Will Smith's Hancock (opening July 4th) seemingly shaky, Disney is hoping for more box office gold over the July 4th Holiday weekend.

Here's a look the performance of every Pixar film since 1999's Toy Story 2:




Toy Story 23236$17734$57,387,224$245,852,179


Monsters, Inc3237$19331$62,577,067$255,873,250


Finding Nemo3374$20821$70,251,710$339,714,978









It's not very often that a film finishing second plays spoiler to the No. 1 film, but that's exactly what happened this weekend with Angelina Jolie's R-rated actioner Wanted. Debuting with a remarkable $51.1 million over the weekend, the film posted the seventh biggest R-rated opening of all-time, taking away some sales that most likely would have gone Wall-e's way. Receiving mostly positive reviews from critics, the Timur Bekmambetov-directed pic averaged a top ten best $16,100 in 3,175 theaters, beating Wall-e's average by nearly $500 per theater.

The debut for Wanted marked personal bests for stars Jolie and James McAvoy. For Jolie, the R-rated pic surpassed both 2005's Mr. and Mrs. Smith with $50.3m and 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider with $47.7m. Following up his stylish Russian vampire sagas Night Watch and Day Watch, Bekmambetov's $75 million foray into American cinema played strongly in the Under 30 demographic, and should continue to play well through the July 4th weekend.

Falling 48% to third was last week's champ Get Smart, which took in $20 million over the weekend. In ten days, the $80 million budgeted comedy has grossed $77.3 million, and should finish up with $125 million for Warner Bros.

Feeling some pressure from the Wall-e debut was DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda, which slipped 47% (its largest drop to date) to $11.7 million in its fourth week of release. In four weeks the Paramount release has grossed an incredible $179.3 million, and should finish with $220-225 million domestic.

Much like its predecessor, Universal's The Incredible Hulk is seeing steep declines since its opening, falling another 58% to $9.2 million in fifth place. In three weeks of release the Ed Norton starrer has taken in $115.5 million, falling behind even the lackluster pace of the original Hulk which took in $117 million over the same period in 2003. Look for the $150m budgeted film to bow out with $125-130 million domestic.

In other notables, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull took in $5 million this weekend to push its cume to $299.9 million. The Steven Spielberg directed sequel should cross $300 million by Monday, making it the director's third film to surpass the triple century mark.

Thanks to a massive $113 million combined boost from Wall-e and Wanted, the top ten films grossed an estimated $175.9 million this weekend, up 24% from last year's comparable frame when Ratatouille topped with a $47 million bow. It was up 26% from 2006 when Superman Returns opened with $52.5 million.

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