Bond, Happy Feet Rule Pre-Thanksgiving Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for November 17-19, 2006

By John Hamann

November 19, 2006

And most of all, son, beware of creepy cameramen here to film your march.

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A new serving of Bond and more animated animals energized the box office, leaving our two-weekend champ Borat in the dust. It was an extremely close race toward the top; Casino Royale won the opening day battle, but Happy Feet, with a big Saturday and Sunday, came back and won the weekend box office title. All the returning films were crushed under the weight of the two big openers, including family films Flushed Away and The Santa Clause 3.

While the return of James Bond did re-energize the franchise, it was a group of happy penguins that stole the box office show. Happy Feet, from the usually inept Warner Bros., is our number one film of the weekend, as it grossed a very strong $42.3 million from a huge 3,804 venues. It had a venue average of $11,120. Happy Feet started the weekend almost $3 million behind Bond on Friday, but managed to come back and win the frame. As Tim Briody reported on Saturday, Happy Feet earned approximately $11.6 million on opening day, well back of Casino Royale's estimate of $14.4 million. Happy Feet stormed back, though, earning a weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 3.7, a standard non-summer multiplier for a film so directly aimed at kids.

Warner Bros. and production company Village Roadshow should be thrilled with this opening. Warner Bros. has never had an animated feature debut as large as this (remember The Ant Bully?) and Village Roadshow has never produced an animated feature. The magic maker may be director George Miller, director of Babe and the classic Babe : Pig in the City, which is really one of the best films ever produced. Miller proved himself as a storyteller with the Mad Max films; he then showed he had the right touch for kids with the Babe films. He was able to wrangle Nicole Kidman into a big part for this film, and Robin Williams is becoming a more popular animated star than feature film performer. Williams has now appeared in Aladdin ($217 million domestic gross), Robots ($36 million open, $128 million finish) and now Happy Feet, which is certainly on its way to $150 million.


Yes, legs for Happy Feet should be of no concern for the distributor and production partners. Reviews were fantastic. At RottenTomatoes, 94 reviewers chimed in on Happy Feet at the time of this writing, and a stellar 75 were happy enough with what they saw. That gives Happy Feet a fresh rating of 80%, a number a non-Pixar, non-Disney animated film should be happy with. IMDb lists the budget at $85 million, which is a figure Warner Bros. should have in the bank by the end of the upcoming long weekend. Happy Feet will have the kid market to themselves until Charlotte's Web opens in mid-December, so the sky may be the limit.

Despite an excellent opening frame, Casino Royale has to settle for second spot at the box office. Naysayers toward Daniel Craig can shut up now, as Casino Royale managed an opening weekend take of $40.6 million. The new Bond debuted on 3,434 venues, about 400 less than Happy Feet, and managed a venue average of $11,823 � the best in the top ten. Most critics call Daniel Craig the best Bond since Sean Connery, while others call him the best ever. Casino Royale received simply stunning reviews. RottenTomatoes gathered 133 reviews, and only six were negative. That gives this franchise reinvention a 95% fresh rating, and one of the best RottenTomatoes scores of the year. With the stellar notices, this one could be even leggier than the usual Bond triumphs, and should have a decent shot at usurping the Bond box office crown from Die Another Day, which finished with a domestic total of $161 million. Casino Royale has already smashed a record in Britain, where its opening day beat Die Another Day by 54%. All in all, this reinvention has worked smashingly, and will breathe new life into many years of box office returns.

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