beowulfposter.jpgSUNDAY AM: Even with the benefit of a digitally manipulated image of a naked Angelina Jolie and an ad campaign mimicking the epic 300, Paramount’s big holiday movie release Beowulf opened this weekend with $28.1 million in gross receipts. (Some rival studios put the number at only $27.1M.) This so-called “adult toon” (because director Robert Zemeckis combined filmed actor performances, animation and special effects for a video game look) was #1 at the box office but gained only 6% Saturday for $10.5 million after opening wide at $9.9 million Friday from 3,153 theaters. Rival studios thought low to mid $30sM would be a good result given how unusual the style of the movie is. But Paramount spent the week before the release trying to lower expectations to just a $25 mil opening while at the same time keeping fingers crossed that Beowulf could capitalize on 300 as well as on The Lord Of The Rings because of the sword and sandals fantasy genre. 

beowolf1.jpgYet a hoped for Saturday matinee surge which worked for family friendly Polar Express (on which Zemeckis used the same motion-capture technology with nowhere near as lively a result) never materialized for the PG-13 Beowulf. Even so, at least Beowulf opened far better than other adult toons like Fritz The Cat, Final Fantasy and Cool World. At a cost of $160 million, the pic will have to do extremely well overseas to compensate — but that’s very possible since Beowulf is so action-oriented. (Warner is a distribution partner and is releasing internationally.) Still, Paramount is only on the hook for 1/3 of the budget: 2/3s came from wealthy producer Steve Bing’s shingle Shangri-La.

beowolf2.jpgThe studio knew there were problems for the pic going into this weekend. I’m told Beowulf was targeted at young males under age 25, young females under 25, and older males over 25. “They’re excited about the movie but there’s a built-in resistance against animated product. That’s a big conundrum,” a Paramount source explained to me. Though 300 and Sin City both expanded the definitions of visuals which young and older adults would embrace, both were R-rated. Whereas PG-13 Beowulf still couldn’t make the leap to blockbuster status even with a sequence of Angelina Jolie coming out of the water naked. A bright spot, however, was the film’s touted “fantastic” performance on about 340 digital 3-D screens, the biggest test yet of that technology.

mrmagorium_galleryposter.jpgMeanwhile, Beowulf faced competition at the box office from two strong pics going into their third week of release. Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie from Dreamworks Animation and distributed by Paramount finished the weekend #2 with $14.3 million from 3,984 venues for a new cume of $93.8 mil. It made $3.4 mil Friday and jumped up to $6.5 mil Saturday thanks to kiddie matinees. And Imagine/Universal’s American Gangster ended up a close #3 with $13.2 million from 3,110 dates for a new cume of $100.9 mil. That pic earned $3.8 mil Friday and bounced for $5.8 mil Saturday. In fact, going into the weekend, NRG’s general tracking data showed the Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe starrer directed by Ridley Scott was still moviegoers’ first choice to see.

Coming in 4th was holdover Fred Claus, the Vince Vaughn laugher from Warner which took in $3.2 mil Friday and $5.7 mil Saturday from 3,603 plays for a weekend of $12.5 mil and new cume of $36.2 mil. But I’m told that, with a budget of $150 mil, plus worldwide marketing costs of another $90 mil, the pic will spill red ink. (Its domestic box office will be hard-pressed to get to $70 mil because parents thought the PG-rated pic looked more like Bad Santa than family fare, and its international prospects are dim since Vince and Christmas comedies aren’t big draws overseas.)

nocountryforoldmen_bigposter.jpgEarly numbers show that Fox / Walden’s Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium which hadn’t been tracking strong ended up No. 5 at the box office. The PG pic starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman opened with $2.6 mil Friday from 3,164 runs and did $4.3 mil Saturday for a $10 million debut weekend.

The other big news is that Miramax’s Best Picture Oscar frontrunner from the Coen brothers, No Country For Old Men, ended the weekend in 7th place with an estimated $3 mil after widening to 148 theaters for a new cume of $4.8. MGM/United Artists’ Lions For Lambs fell to #8 its second weekend out with a very weak take of $2.9 mil (-57%) from 2,216 dates and new cume of just $11.5 mil despite prestige cast of Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford (who also directed). And New Line’s Love In The Time Of Cholera, playing in 852 venues, opened in only 10th place with $1.8 mil for the weekend.

Here’s the chart:

  1. 1. Beowulf $9.9M Fri, $10.5M Sat, [wkd $28.1M], (cume $28.1M)
  2. 2. Bee Movie $3.4M Fri, $6.5M Sat, [$14.3M], ($93.8M)
  3. 3. American Gangster $3.8M Fri, $5.8M Sat, [$13.2M], ($100.9M)
  4. 4. Fred Claus $3.2M Fri, $5.7M Sat, [$12.5M], ($36.2M)
  5. 5. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium$2.6M Fri, $4.3M Sat, [$10M], ($10M)
  6. 6. Dan In Real Life $1.4M Fri, $1.9M Sat, [$4.4M], ($37M)
  7. 7. No Country For Old Men $892K Fri, $1.2M Sat, [$3M] ($4.8M)
  8. 8. Lions For Lambs $825K Fri, $1.2M Sat, [$2.9M], ($11.5M)
  9. 9. Saw IV $715K Fri, $995K Sat, [$2.2M], ($61.8M)
  10. 10. Love In The Time Of Cholera $630K Fri, $770K Sat, [$1.8M], ($1.8M)