April 2, 2006

“Ice Age” sequel heats up box office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The animated sequel "Ice Age: The
Meltdown" registered the biggest opening of the year at the
North American box office, selling an estimated $70.5 million
worth of tickets during its first three days, distributor 20th
Century Fox said on Sunday.

The opening exceeded the News Corp.-owned studio's
expectations of about $55 million. Its 2002 predecessor, "Ice
Age," opened with $46 million, and went on to earn $176
million. The sequel, which features the voices of Ray Romano
and John Leguizamo as prehistoric creatures, cost about $80
million to make, Fox said.

Until "Ice Age: The Meltdown," the biggest three-day
opening this year had been recorded by the comedy "Madea's
Family Reunion," with $30 million in February.

Overall business was quiet in the first quarter, with few
movies garnering much mainstream support. Even most of the
major Academy Award-nominated films failed to click with

Ticket sales through last weekend stood at about $2
billion, up less than one percent from the year-ago period,
according to box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. The
number of tickets sold fell by two percent to about 300
million, it said.

"Ice Age: The Meltdown" earned more than the combined total
of the other movies in the top 10. Last weekend's champion,
Universal Pictures' heist thriller "Inside Man," slipped to No.
2 with $15.7 million. Warner Bros.' urban drama "ATL" opened at
No. 3 with $12.5 million.

As expected, Sharon Stone bombed again, this time with
"Basic Instinct 2," the belated sequel to her last hit, 1992's
"Basic Instinct." The erotic thriller earned just $3.2 million,
said distributor Columbia Pictures, tying at No. 10 with
Lionsgate's comedy "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector."

Universal Pictures is a unit of General Electric Co's NBC
Universal Inc. Warner Bros. Pictures is a unit of Time Warner
Inc. Columbia Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp. Lionsgate is a
unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.