danielbond.JPGSUNDAY AM: (Refresh for latest) Whose numbers to believe? Sony officially tallied the Casino Royale weekend take at $40.6 mil, lower than any rival studio’s estimate, and Warner Bros. officially put Happy Feet at $42.3 mil, higher than any other competitor’s estimate. (About Warner’s estimate, one box office guru told me this AM, “They are being extremely aggressive with their number, and I am not sure come tomorrow that they will be able to live up to the heights they are setting today.”) Other experts had it as a photo finish, with only $132K to $400K separating the #1 and #2 movies at the box office office this weekend. It’s all coming down to Sunday’s real figures, not estimates. bird2.jpgThis nailbiter of a race has been giving studio moguls’ flop sweat. That’s because there’s immense PR value in declaring a movie No. 1 in the U.S. market. Comparatively, the new Bond-as-Bourne scored the better per screen average — so, just as I’d predicted, the margin of difference came down to running time and theater count where the penguin pic had the edge on the spy. Overseas, 007 was #1 in all 27 countries where it opened, earning $42.2 mil from the UK, Russia, India and small territories in the Mideast and Asia. That’s 70% higher than the previous Die Another Day and by far the biggest Bond ever. Worldwide, Casino Royale took in $82.8 mil. It was the #9 all-time UK opening, and the biggest Bond opening ever in the UK by 46%. Here in the U.S., Casino Royale won the start of the weekend — helped by women curious to see buff Daniel Craig on Friday. bird.JPGBut Happy Feet finished the weekend bigger thanks to huge kiddie matinees. For the Friday-through-Sunday, Bond vs Birds marks the first time dueling movies both made over $40 mil. On Friday, 007 raked in $14.9 million from 3,434 theaters and on Saturday $15.7 mil with an estimate of $10 mil for Sunday (which I think is too low a prediction) — compared to the singers’ and hoofers’ $12.1 mil Friday and $17.1 mil Saturday from 3,804 playdates. In terms of per screen average, the spy’s was $11,823, while the birds’ was $10,778. One thing is clear, though: The studio is thrilled with Daniel Craig’s debut. When Pierce Brosnan started his run in the franchise, his opening was below Daniel Craig’s, even factoring in everything. But, by November 2002, his Die Another Day had a $47 mil 3-day opening weekend — higher than Casino Royale‘s opening. True, ticket prices were 12% lower back then, but the Brosnan pic had a much shorter running time. (2 hours, compared to 2 hours, 24 minutes). And Die Another Day didn’t go up against a crowd-pleasing penguin pic!

bobby.jpgNo. 3 was Fox’s spoof Borat, expanding into 2,611 theaters and taking in another $4.9 mil Friday and $5.8 mil Saturday its third week out. That’s down 50% from last week; its cume now stands at $90 mil. (Although most of that money may wind up going to lawyers to fight all those lawsuits since there’s a new one announced every day as the Borat backlash grows and grows.) Disney’s Santa Clause 3 came in 4th place: it made $2 mil from 3,359 playdates Friday and $3.8 mil Saturday for what was an $8.3 mil its third weekend out, and a new cume of $51.7 mil. Sony’s Will Ferrell starrer Stranger than Fiction was #5 with $2 mil from 2,270 theaters Friday, down 54% from last week, and $2.8 mil Saturday, for a new cume of $23 mil and an estimated $6.7 mil weekend. No. 6 turned out to be Paramount / Dreamworks’ Flushed Away, earning $1.5 mil Friday (down 70%) and$2.9 mil Saturday (down only 56%) for a $6.5 mil weekend and a new cume of $48.5 mil. Paramount Vantage’s Babel, which is Oscar buzzed, came in #7. Playing in 1,251 theaters, the Brad Pitt starrer made $865,000 Friday and $1.1 mil Saturday, for a $2.8 mil weekend and new cume of $12 mil. (Meanwhile, Paramount is going all out on ads for this pic, whose box office doesn’t justify the big p-and-a expenditure.) The next 6 top pics are really tightly packed together with weekend estimates in the $2-to-$2.8 mil range. foryourconsideration.jpgThe biggest horror film is still #8 Lionsgate’s Saw III, earning $850,000 Friday and $1.1 mil Saturday for a $2.5 mil weekend and a new cume of $74.5 mil. Warner’s The Departed, its Oscar chances improving every week for Best Picture and Best Director, was No. 9 by earning $775,000 Friday and $1.1 mil Saturday for a new cume of $113.7 mil. And Universal’s comedy Let’s Go To Prison dropped out of the Top 10 by weekend’s end with only $2.1 mil; it debuted with a paltry $733,000 from 1,495 playdates Friday and $860,000 Saturday. Instead, Freestyle’s After Dark’s Horror Fest came in #10, earning $830,000 from 488 playdates Friday and $949,000 Saturday for a $2.3 mil weekend debut. Fox Searchlight’s opener Fast Food Nation came in #18; showing in 321 playdates, it did $127,000 Friday and $161,000 Saturday for just $401,000 weekend with a terrible per screen average. By contrast, newcomer MGM/The Weinstein Co.’s Bobby, Emilio Estevez’s Oscar touted pic, was the weekend’s per screen champ, doing $10,540 Friday and $14,018 Saturday. Overall, the biopic playing on two screens made $21,000 Friday and $28,000 Saturday for a $72,000 weekend opening. Another debut, WIP’s For Your Consideration — the latest of Christopher Guest’s ensemble laffers, this one about the Oscars — made $108,000 from 23 playdates Friday and $148,000 Saturday for a $376,000 weekend.

danieltux.JPGWarner’s Happy Feet is only 1 hour, 38 minutes long with 3,804 playdates, while Sony’s Casino Royale is 2 hours, 24 minutes long (the lengthiest Bond flick ever). The penguins had more showings per day in more theaters. But that’s balanced by those cut-rate kiddie tickets. Right before the weekend, Sony was lowering expectations for Casino Royale to come in second to Happy Feet here — counting more on foreign sales. The last 007 was Die Another Day, which had a 2-hour running time and earned $47 mil for its Nov. 22, 2002, opening weekend. It went on to earn $160 mil domestically, $271 mil overseas, for a cume of $432 mil. It was the biggest grosser of Bond’s Pierce Brosnan series. More as it comes in…

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