1. Happy Feet - $42.3M - $42.3M
2. Casino Royale - $40.6M - $40.6M
3. Borat - $14.3M - $90.5M
4. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause - $8.22M - $51.6M
5. Flushed Away - $6.81M - $48.8M
6. Stranger Than Fiction - $6.6M - $22.9M
7. Babel - $2.9M - $12M
8. Saw III - $2.8M - $74.9M
9. The Departed - $2.6M - $114M
10. After Dark's HorrorFest - $2.4M - $2.4M
While Casino Royale had a stronger Friday, the kid-friendly Saturday allowed CGI musical/comedy Happy Feet to just pip it at the last post. Happy Feet is the latest in CGI animal movies which seemed to have been released at the rate of 2 a month since April. The difference here is that Happy Feet was almost universally praised by critics and may even had picked up some fans of last year's surprise hit March of the Penguins. Directed by George "Babe" Miller, early trailers weren't awe-inspiring but the movie has really picked up pace in the weeks up to release. With Flushed Away pretty much out of the running, Happy Feet had the market all to itself.
Bond is most certainly back, albeit with a slightly less take than Die Another Day in 2002. The movie had to kickstart the franchise again (last done with Goldeneye) and introduce the world to a new tougher James Bond. Like Happy Feet, Casino Royale received mainly positive reviews and that $40M opening take certainly won't disappoint (especially combined with the movie's success overseas - It took in over £1.6M from Thursday previews in the UK) the studio. Bond had the highest screen/takings average of any movie in the top ten and was shown on 400 screens less than Happy Feet.
This weekend marks the first since the release of The Longest Yard/Madagascar that two movies have taken more than $40M in the same weekend. With Thanksgiving weekend coming up, Bond should have a successful second weekend.
Borat drops down two spots after ruling for the past two weekends, losing around 50% of business from last weekend. The movie sits just $10M short of $100M from just three weekends on release, the first of which saw the movie on just 837 screens. The movie is a massive smash and cost just $18M to make. The marketing was practically free with Sacha Baron Cohen appearing on any show that would have him.
The Santa Clause 3 still keeps chipping away but is down by 50% from last weekend as it crossed the $50M mark. With more competition next weekend, expect the movie to struggle on to around $65-70M. Was the movie released too far from Christmas? People tired of the franchise? Or has the long gap between movies harmed it - those kids who saw the first and second movies are the ones queueing up to see Borat now. Who's to say, but that potential low final take may well signal the end of the Clause movies.
Now I'd originally said that Flushed Away seemed to be performing well, sitting just behind Santa Clause 3 in its third weekend, having a good second weekend and being the only CGI movie on the chart until this week's Happy Feet, giving it a good chunk of the kid market. Except the budget was announced this week and it appears that Flushed Away cost an epic $149M! All of a sudden that $48M in three weekends looks decidedly disappointing and could well be the reason for Dreamworks ending their partnership with Aardman this past week. With Happy Feet now in the charts, a movie which looks a much cuter attraction than rats living in a sewer, expect Flushed Away to vanish quickly. Like Claus, Flushed Away should finish its domestic run with around $65M.
Stranger Than Fiction struggled to find its market last weekend. Being a Will Ferrel movie that wasn't a straight laugh out loud comedy threw his established fans for a curveball. The movie should just about turn a profit but could have benefited from being released early next year as opposed to a crowded November. A real shame as the movie was earning Ferrel is strong notices for his portrayal of a guy who's life is being written by Emma Thompson's novelist.
Babel drops in its fourth weekend (second on wide release) and confirms that the movie expanded too soon. A movie such as Babel can't really rely on a trailer to sell its complex story and would have benefited from another few weeks in a limited capacity to allow word of mouth to build up before expanding into 1000+ screens - finding an interested audience waiting. Expect it to appear again around Oscar time.
Saw III and The Departed come next, both major successes. In fact, last week The Departed became Martin Scorcese's most successful movie at the box office of his entire career, beating The Aviator. Saw III sits $12M short of the takings scored by Saw II last year and should best it before the end of its theatrical run.
A curious one sits at number ten. After Dark's Horror Fest is 8 full length movies being shown individually across 488 screens for just this weekend (as far as I can tell). The box office is made up of the takings of all 8 of the movies from their locations and this allowed it to crack the top ten for its one and only weekend of release. They'll be heading to DVD shortly where they'll be released as separate products and not one box set (again, from what I can tell).
The only other new wide release was the comedy 'Let's Go To Prison' which performed poorly, scrapping just $2M from over 1200 screens. Elsewhere Ridley Scott's A Good Year dropped five places, pretty much sealing its fate as a major flop.
The latest ensemble comedy from Christopher Guest & Co, For Your Consideration, opened on 23 screens, taking just under $400K.