While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Changing Lanes swerved into first place, opening to a fast $17.6 million.
Panic Room locked up second place with $11.3 million. The Sweetest Thing kicked off third with a tasty $10 million.
Ice Age was barely thawing in fourth place with $8.7 million. The Rookie was a hard running fifth with $8.1 million. Frailty, the weekend's other wide opening, tied for eighth with a frail $4.2 million.
With little excitement in the marketplace, key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--tumbled from their recent summer-like levels. This weekend's $92 million total was down about 13 percent from the previous weekend's $105.5 million. Business was up nearly 8 percent from last year's $85.3 million for what was Easter Weekend 2001.
THE TOP TEN
Paramount's R rated road rage drama Changing Lanes found first place parking, pushing the April box office speed limit with an ESTIMATED $17.55 million at 2,613 theaters ($6,716 per theater).
Changing Lanes' average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Roger Michell, it stars Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson.
"We're very happy," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "It's on the high end of what we thought it would be. We were looking at $15-18 million."
Lewellen pointed out that Changing Lanes' opening is one of the best ever for an April arrival. "In the month of April, the largest opening ever was Life, which opened in '99 (the weekend of Apr. 16-18) to $20.4 million," he said. "Then you had Lost In Space at $20.1 million, Entrapment at $20.1 million, U-571 at $19.6 million, Indecent Proposal at $18.3 million and then this one at $17.6 million. So April is not a booming month (for openings)."
Looking at Changing Lanes' opening, Lewellen noted, "It's actually performed the way the research said (it would). It played across pretty much all demos equally. That is, it showed relatively the same interest and first choice across the board--a little stronger in older female (over 25). And that's pretty what we got. It had a very strong African-American attendance."
Columbia's R rated thriller Panic Room was still putting up strong resistance in its third week, down one peg to second place with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-38%) at 3,119 theaters (+66 theaters; $3,623 per theater). Its cume is approximately $74.1 million, heading for $100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by David Fincher, it stars Jodie Foster.
"A less than 40 percent drop two weeks in a row for this wide a run and at this nice high level is certainly a sign of continued strength that we hope will get us to $100 million," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
Sony also launched its first international openings for Panic Room this weekend to impressive results. "It was sensational," Blake noted. "We were number one in eight out of eight openings."
Panic Room took hold in Australia, Spain, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Holland and in Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark and Finland).
"It opened this weekend to really tremendous results. We obviously beat all comers in all markets. The markets will continue to roll out with Japan opening this week and the U.K. opening the first week in May."
Focusing on the impact internationally of a strong domestic opening such as Panic Room had when it kicked off to $30.1 million in late March, Blake observed, "I happened to be traveling (abroad) for the last two weeks and every market I went to was aware of the great results out of the U.S. It certainly seeps into both the public consciousness and the exhibitor consciousness all over the world."
Columbia's R rated romantic comedy The Sweetest Thing opened in third place to a semi-sweet ESTIMATED $10.0 million at 2,670 theaters ($3,745 per theater).
Directed by Roger Kumble, it stars Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair.
"Young girls in their high teens and 20s were the strongest audience," Sony's Jeff Blake said. "The nice surprise was that young males liked it as well as the young females. We hope that as really one of the few comedies in the market we can hang in there."
20th Century Fox's PG rated animated feature Ice Age slipped one peg to fourth place in its fifth week, still frozen solid with an ESTIMATED $8.7 million (-36%) at 3,011 theaters (-189 theaters; $2,889 per theater). Its cume is approximately $151.8 million, heading for $175 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Chris Wedge, it features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary.
"It's holding wonderfully," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning, "especially (considering that) The Rookie is still in the market doing business to families and so is Clockstoppers."
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated family appeal baseball drama The Rookie fell one base to fifth place in its third week, still showing great legs with an ESTIMATED $8.1 million (-30%) at 2,520 theaters (-4 theaters; $3,234 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.4 million.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, it stars Dennis Quaid.
20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises' PG-13 rated thriller High Crimes fell four rungs to sixth place in its second week with a slower ESTIMATED $8.01 million (-43%) at 2,747 theaters (+30 theaters; $2,914 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.5 million, heading for $40 million or more.
Directed by Carl Franklin, it stars Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' PG rated time travel adventure Clockstoppers held on to seventh place in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $4.77 million (-35%) at 2,512 theaters (-51 theaters; $1,897 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.2 million, heading for $40 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Jonathan Frakes, it stars Jesse Bradford, Paula Garces, French Stewart, Michael Biehn and Robin Thomas.
"We're still $12 million or so away from the (projected) $40 million, but these kind of films have sort of an extended life in matinee business," Paramount's Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "We find that to be true with all of the family (product). They hang on."
Artisan Entertainment's R rated youth comedy National Lampoon's Van Wilder, which was sixth last week, tied for eighth place in its second week with a less funny ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-43%) at 2,104 theaters (+82 theaters; $1,996 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.8 million, heading for $20 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Walt Becker, it stars Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid.
"We're figuring it's going to top out at $20 million, which for us will be successful because we made the film for between $5-6 million," Artisan domestic theatrical distribution president Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning.
"These R rated comedies always do extraordinarily well in video. Kids who are 13, 14 or 15 go to a movie theater and cannot get into (R rated films if) they're not accompanied (by an adult). Yet they can go to the local (video store) three months later when it's out and rent it with no questions asked. These films typically over perform versus box office when they go to video. So we're very optimistic about it doing very, very well on the video side."
Lions Gate Films' R rated horror genre film Frailty kicked off quietly in a tie for eighth place with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million at 1,497 theaters ($2,806 per theater).
Directed by Bill Paxton, it stars Paxton and Matthew McConaughey.
Rounding out the Top Ten was New Line Cinema's R rated vampire thriller Blade 2, which was fifth a week earlier, in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-45%) at 2,174 theaters (-387 theaters; $1,886 per theater). Its cume is approximately $73.7 million, heading for $80 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, it stars Wesley Snipes.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Fine Line Features' R rated comedy Human Nature with an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.31 million at 224 theaters ($1,385 per theater).
Directed by Michael Gondry, it stars Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans and Miranda Otto.
Lions Gate Films PG-13 rated comedy thriller The Cat's Meow opened to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.11 million at 11 theaters in New York and Los Angeles ($10,000 per theater).
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, it stars Kirsten Dunst, Eddie Izzard, Edward Herrmann, Cary Elwes, Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Tilly.
"We'll be expanding Cat's into the Top Ten markets on Apr. 26 and then nationwide on May 3, so we're very optimistic about that," Lions Gate Films president Tom Ortenberg said Sunday.
TriStar's R rated drama New Best Friend arrived to an unfriendly ESTIMATED $27,000 at 100 theaters ($270 per theater).
Directed by Zoe Clarke-Williams, it stars Mia Kirshner, Meredith Monroe, Dominique Swain and Taye Diggs.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend IFC Films' unrated erotic drama Y Tu Mama Tambien went wider in its fifth week with a less arousing ESTIMATED $1.0 million (-14%) at 194 theaters (+14 theaters; $5,225 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.5 million.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, it stars Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its eighth week with a still spicy ESTIMATED $0.64 million (-10%) at 162 theaters (+12 theaters; $3,945 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.2 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
United Artists' reissue of The Last Waltz went wider in its second week via MGM with an ESTIMATED $34,000 at 6 theaters (+5 theaters; $5,725 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69,000.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Waltz is a musical documentary about the final concert of The Band.
Universal's international division reported Sunday morning that in Argentina A Beautiful Mind was number one with $45,000 (-10%) on 50 playdates. E.T. moved up three pegs to sixth place with $17,000 (+13%) on 50 playdates.
Panic Room opened in first place in Australia with $1.1 million on 200 playdates. Time Machine opened number two with $0.65 million on 183 playdates. A Beautiful Mind is fourth in its 6th week with $0.36 million on 230 playdates. The Scorpion King opens next Thursday.
In Brazil, A Beautiful Mind is third with $0.2 million (-20%) on 156 playdates. K-Pax, which Universal is releasing in Brazil, opened fourth with $60,000 on 55 playdates. E.T ranked tenth with $35,000 (-14%) on 159 playdates.
A Beautiful Mind was fourth in Germany with $0.63 million (-26%) on 355 playdates. Spy Game finished eleventh with $0.2 million (-49%) on 230 playdates. E.T was 14th with $0.14 million (-30%) on 538 playdates.
In Spain, E.T had a two day gross of $0.14 million (-35%) on 250 playdates. A Beautiful Mind was fifth with $0.26 million (-30%) on 190 playdates.
Ali G Inda House, Universal's latest film from Working Title, continued to perform solidly in the U.K. where it has grossed $12.8 million in 23 days on 394 playdates. Scorpion King opens Friday (Apr. 19) in the U.K.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $91.98 million, up about 7.84 percent from last year when they totaled $85.3 million. Key films this weekend were down about 12.78 percent from the previous weekend of this year's total of $105.46 million.
Last year, Dimension Films' third week of Spy Kids was first with $12.5 million at 3,172 theaters ($3,941 per theater); and Paramount's second week of Along Came A Spider was second with $11.53 million at 2,530 theaters ($4,556 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $24.0 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $28.9 million.