November 13, 2005

‘Chicken Little’ lays golden egg at box office

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Chicken Little" ruled the coop at
the North American box office for a second weekend, earning
almost as much as the three major new releases combined,
according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.

Walt Disney Co.'s first home-grown computer-animated
cartoon sold about $32 million worth of tickets in the three
days beginning Friday, followed by the sci-fi adventure
"Zathura" with $14 million, the thriller "Derailed" with $12.8
million, and rapper 50 Cent's gritty urban drama "Get Rich or
Die Tryin"' with $12.5 million.

The top 10 films contained one other new entry, the period
adaptation "Pride & Prejudice," which opened at No. 10 with
$2.8 million from its limited release run.

"Chicken Little" lost just 20 percent of its audience from
its bigger-than-expected launch the prior weekend, and its
10-day total rose to $80.8 million. Usually, big movies can
expect to drop about 50 percent in their second weekend,
although family movies often hold up better.

Disney said it hoped the movie will have banked about $90
million by the time the eagerly anticipated "Harry Potter and
the Goblet of Fire" sucks in every youngster next Friday.

"Chicken Little" revolves around the age-old tale of a
chicken that thinks the sky is falling. In Disney's adaptation,
no one believes the chicken (voiced by Zach Braff, star of the
NBC sitcom "Scrubs") when he warns of a greater peril.

The three major newcomers mostly opened within their
studios' expectations, although their ticket sales were
relatively modest.

SOLID OPENING

"Zathura," a $65 million sci-fi adventure sharing the same
roots as the 1995 movie "Jumanji, stars Tim Robbins and is
directed by Jon Favreau. Its $14 million opening was termed as
"solid," by its distributor, Columbia Pictures. The Sony
Corp.-owned studio said families comprised 71 percent of the
audience, while three-quarters of moviegoers polled said they
would definitely recommend it.

"Derailed," a psychological thriller starring Jennifer
Aniston and British actor Clive Owen, beat industry
expectations by more than $2 million, said its distributor, the
Weinstein Co. Fans of the former TV Sitcom "Friends" actress
Aniston turned out in force, with women accounting for about 60
percent of the audience, the company added.

The film, which sources said cost about $22 million to
make, marks the first major release from the new studio set up
by former Miramax Films co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein,
who recently ended their difficult relationship with Disney.

"Get Rich or Die Trying," which stars Curtis "50 Cent"
Jackson in a drama loosely based on his criminal past, got a
two-day head start on the other new films by opening Wednesday,
taking its total to $18.2 million.

Its distributor, Paramount Pictures, had hoped the early
start would spread out attendance and help prevent violence,
but a man was shot to death Wednesday in the lobby of a
Pittsburgh theater while the film was playing.

Although the film was directed by Irishman Jim Sheridan,
famed for such weighty fare as "My Left Foot" and "In the Name
of the Father," his imprimatur did little to widen its reach
beyond young rap fans, according to midweek polling conducted
by the Viacom Inc.-owned studio. Data revealed that
three-quarters of moviegoers were black, and their ages were
concentrated in the 18-24 range.

"Pride & Prejudice," starring English actress Keira
Knightley ("Domino") in an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel,
was released by Focus Features, a unit of General Electric
Co.'s NBC Universal. It was playing in just 215 theaters, far
fewer than its bigger rivals, such as "Chicken Little" with
3,658 theaters and "Get Rich" with 1,652.