Nobody does dog movies quite like Disney. The canine gold rush for Walt Disney Studios began in 1955 with the release of the animated Lady & the Tramp, which generated a $93.6M cume in three separate theatrical releases. The studio then continued with the king of all dog movies, 1961’s animated classic 101 Dalmatians ($144.8M cume in five releases), rolled through the 1990’s with the live action 101 and 102 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close, which combined to gross over $200M domestic, and has shown no signs of slowing down this decade with hits like Snow Dogs ($81.1M cume) and Eight Below ($81.6M). It’s fair to say that Disney has added another big dog to its resume.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua’s little star Chloe (voice by Drew Barrymore) may be small, but she has a very big bite. The new live action talking dog movie grabbed a stunning $8M on its opening day, and, with a predictably huge surge of family business Saturday and Sunday, Beverly Hills Chihuahua will likely reach an estimated $29M for the three-day. If the number holds, this would be the all-time second-biggest Disney dog movie opening in history, trailing only 1996’s live action 101 Dalmatians ($33.5M). Early math is pointing toward a possible $105M-$110M total domestic take.
Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount), the holdover high-tech thriller starring Shia LaBeouf, scared up another $5.44M on its second Friday, and it seems headed for an estimated $17.7M weekend, down only 39 percent or so from its meteoric opening. Based on that hold, the DJ Caruso-directed blockbuster will reach almost $55M by the end of Sunday and seems to be on track for $100M-$105M domestic.
Shia LaBeouf may be Hollywood’s biggest Under 25 male star, but 20-year-old Michael Cera is in the conversation thanks to Superbad ($121.5M cume) and Juno ($143.5M cume), but his new flick Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony) has opened below industry expectations The exceedingly well-reviewed teen comedy (71 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) is No. 3 for the day with $4.4M and that will likely translate to a less-than-expected $12M opening weekend. Director Peter Sollett’s first film was a quirky teen romance set in Lower Manhattan called Raising Victor Vargas, which earned five Independent Spirit Awards, so he had the perfect sensibility to make a movie like this work. Despite the soft opening, the Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist will still be very profitable with a production budget of only $10M.
The Richard Gere–Diane Lane tearjerker Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) is solidly entrenched at fourth for the day and the weekend. The Nicholas Sparks adaptation is luring Females 25 Plus to America’s multiplexes with about $2.4M on Friday and an anticipated second weekend of $7.35M, down just 45 percent. That will give Rodanthe a new cume of $25M or so by Monday morning.
The Ed Harris-directed Appaloosa (Warner Bros) is proving that America still loves a good Western. With a cast that includes Viggo Mortensen and Oscar winners Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons, this second directorial effort for Harris has expanded to 1,045 playdates with terrific results. The old-fashioned shoot-em-up seized $1.6M on Friday, and it is headed for a strong $5M weekend, good for fifth place.
David Zucker’s conservative comedy rant An American Carol (Vivendi) has surpassed industry expectations with $1.22M on its opening day. The movie, which makes sport of the uber liberal “documentarian” Michael Moore will likely sell $3.8M in tickets over the weekend for $2,325 Per Theatre Average. Although it was not screened for critics, L.A. Weekly’s Scott Foundas did manage to see it, and he says, “The movie’s level of political discourse makes Couric/Palin look like Frost/Nixon.” Regardless, it was not made for left coast critics, and there is clearly room at multiplexes for movies made by and for conservatives.
Ironically, holdover Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn), a Christian-themed film made by the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, will likely outperform An American Carol for the th-day despite being in its second week and showing at almost 800 fewer locations. The red state-friendly Fireproof will likely reach $4M for the frame for a new cumeree of almost $12.5M. This is a massive success for filmmaker and Sherwood Baptist Church Associate Pastor Alex Kendrick considering that the movie was made for only $500,000 and all of the profit will be funneled back into the church ministries.
From the Godly to the godless as the Bill Maher doc Religulous (Lionsgate), a nihilistic filmmaking exercise if there ever was one, will probably crack the top 10 for the weekend. Maher attacks religion generally, and Christianity specifically, in this comic doc, and it has generated a surprisingly strong $1.1M, which should translate to an impressive $3.5M despite being on only 502 screens. That would be an impressive $6,900+ Per Theatre Average.
In a rather hodgepodge weekend of releases, the remaining three titles are all disappointments to varying degrees. Universal’s feel-good Flash of Genius, the real-life story of Robert Kearns, who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, had the invention stolen by Ford and then sued the auto giant, scored about $655 per screen on Friday for an $729,000 gross. With generally positive reviews (59 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and a cast including Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear, Golden Globe nominee Lauren Graham and Oscar nominee Alan Alda, Flash of Genius will still only reach $2.32M for the three-day, and it will miss the top 10 altogether.
Blindness (Miramax), the dismally-reviewed new movie from Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) stumbled to an embarrassing $740,000 Friday and, for the weekend, $2M and a dismal $1,185 PTA is in the cards. (You know you are in trouble when the National Association of the Blind is protesting your movie.) Meanwhile, MGM’s How To Lose Friends & Alienate People starring the always-funny Simon Pegg is a non-starter with just $456,000 on opening day and a projected $1.4M for the three-day. That is a weekend Per Theatre of just $801.
STUDIO THREE-DAY ESTIMATES
1. NEW – Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) – $29M, $9,020 PTA, $29M cume
2. Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $17.7M, $5,034 PTA, $54.6M cume
3. NEW – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony) – $12M, $4,957 PTA, $12M cume
4. Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) – $7.35M, $2,722 PTA, $25M cume
5. Appaloosa (Warner Bros) – $5M, $4,799PTA, $5.57M
6. Lakeview Terrace (Sony) – $4.5M, $1,748 PTA, $32.1M cume
7. Burn After Reading (Focus) – $4.08M, $1,703 PTA, $51.64M cume
8. Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn) – $4.06M, $4,776 PTA, $12.5M cume
9. NEW- An American Carol (Vivendi) – $3.8M, $2,325 PTA, $3.8M cume
10. NEW – Religulous (Lionsgate) – $3.5M, $6,972 PTA, $3.5M cume
11. NEW – Flash of Genius (Universal) – $2.32M, $2,120 PTA, $2.32M cume
12. NEW – Blindness (Miramax) – $2M, $1,185 PTA, $2M cume
*NEW – How To Lose Friends & Alienate People (MGM) – $14M, $801 PTA, $1.4M cume