Aardman Animation’s Shaun The Sheep sheared off $852K in 2,202 theaters in late nights that started yesterday morning, coming in a bit soft. The stop-motion clay-animated movie will expand into 2,320 theaters Friday. Aardman has a loyal fan base so this will likely be a front-loaded couple of days and may then fade off, so we’re looking at $5M-$6M for the three-day. The critics seem to love this film which literally has no dialogue (just a bit of bleating). It received a B+ CinemaScore.

The family film was very well dated by distributor Lionsgate as it dropped into a time where that segment of the audience is ready for new fare after Inside Out and Minions have both played themselves out. Still, these Aardman film has already been out on DVD for a while and on in-flight entertainment. Overseas, the film was released earlier this year and has since taken in $59.7M in what was the first collaboration between Studiocanal and Aardman. There are still some territories to release.

Lionsgate’s break-even point on Shaun The Sheep should be in the mid-teen area all in, which the picture could do as it plays out as they are said to have a $1M-$2M acquisition cost and then are shouldering marketing and distribution costs as well.

The Shaun the Sheep character was introduced via a the short film A Close Shave which first debuted in 1995 and won an Oscar before it ended up as a TV series in the UK.

In terms of comps, it has been a bit hard to nail down. This one started playing at around 11 AM yesterday so almost had a full day of play. Another stop-motion picture, The Boxtrolls, earned only $270K Thursday night when it previewed and went onto make $17.2M in September 2014, but that one was in 1,000 more theaters (3,464 to be exact) than Shaun The Sheep. Planes: Fire And Rescue flew in with $450K in late nights starting at 7 PM and also ended up in the $17.5M range, but that was Disney and a franchise … so we’re thinking maybe Earth To Echo might be the better comp. The Relativity picture opened last year in roughly 3,200 theaters and ended up grossing an $8.3M weekend over the three-day July 4th holiday. Like I said, hard to come up with a decent comp, but there it is.