Winning audiences with its lovable dogs and rousing trailer, Eight Below
devoured a husky $25 million at 3,066 locations in four days, plowing past expectations to claim the President's Day weekend top spot. Buena Vista's survival tale of stranded sled dogs led 20th Century Fox's low brow Date Movie
, which industry tracking had projected would be No. 1.
"We're over $10 million ahead of where some people had predicted us," said Buena Vista's president of distribution, Chuck Viane. "Considering I have Siberian huskies, I'm partial to this movie, but I think it appeals to anyone who is an animal lover. You haven't seen anything like this in a long time. Part of it was that this was a throwback to the old fashioned movies and the way things used to be done."
Enthusiastically dubbed "The Most Amazing Story of Survival, Friendship, and Adventure Ever Told" and "Inspired by a True Story," the Antarctic adventure led by Paul Walker drew a broad audience—44 percent of which was "non-family," Buena Vista's exit polling indicated—and the picture earned an "A" from CinemaScore, a company that polls the opinions of opening night moviegoers. Viane noted that the 838 sneak previews on Feb. 4 played to 82 percent capacity. Eight Below
's opening was comparable to Snow Dogs
, Buena Vista's 2002 family comedy also featuring sled dogs, and the studio has tapped similar subject matter in the past with White Fang
, Iron Will
and the Homeward Bound
movies. Among realistic animal pictures, Eight Below
had the biggest bow on record, and audience appetite for another South Pole expedition may have been whetted by last year's surprise hit, March of the Penguins