B.O. plays pair of Kutchers

His ani 'Season' finishes 1st, 'Guardian' is 2nd

By Nicole Sperling
The Hollywood Reporter
October 2, 2006

The animated Ashton Kutcher attracted more moviegoers than the live-action Ashton Kutcher this weekend at the North American boxoffice with Sony Pictures' "Open Season" outgrossing Buena Vista Pictures' "The Guardian" by more than $5 million. Both pictures delivered within expectations, lifting the overall boxoffice to its first up weekend in four weeks as compared to last year's track record.

The top 12 films this weekend grossed an estimated $85 million for the three-day frame compared to last year's take of $75 million, for a year-on-year increase of more than 13%.

Grossing an estimated $23 million, "Open Season" marked the 11th No. 1 film for Sony Pictures and the 10th to open above $20 million this year. It is also the first film out of Sony's newly launched Sony Pictures Animation. Bowing in 3,833 theaters, the film boasted a per-theater average of $6,001, and clinched the top spot easily. With no other broad-based animated films in the marketplace, "Open Season" from directors Jill Coulton and Roger Allers clearly had the family market cornered.

"This is a terrific opening for us," said Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony Pictures. "The film is truly a labor of love for the entire studio and the multiples should be terrific for weeks and weeks to come. Everybody is in a good mood today."

With a reported budget of $85 million, the film's hold will be crucial to setting up a strong ancillary market. But with no new animated product set to hit the marketplace until Paramount Pictures releases the Dreamworks Animation film "Flushed Away" on Nov. 3, the boxoffice is "Season's" for the taking.

"We're very pleased," added Yair Landau, president of Sony Pictures Animation. "We're launching not only 'Open Season' but all of Sony Pictures Animation. We're very pleased that audiences recognized the quality of the film and came out for us."

The film also did strong business in IMAX theaters. Bowing in 63 IMAX locations, the film grossed an estimated $1.5 million, for a strong per-screen average of $23,800. According to IMAX's president of filmed entertainment Greg Foster, "Season's" Friday to Saturday increase marked the biggest jump in the company's history with its digitally remastered studio product. "We've never had a movie open in September," Foster said. "It's a very strong indication that the right movie in IMAX 3D works and it's a tribute to Sony Animation who changed part of the movie to take advantage of IMAX 3D."

On the live action front, Kutcher was still able to do significant business this weekend, grossing an estimated $17.7 million. From Disney's Touchstone label and Beacon Pictures, "The Guardian," also starring Kevin Costner, was well-received by audiences as it arrived in second place, and with positive exit polls Buena Vista is hopeful that the PG-13 rated film about Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, directed by Andrew Davis, will play on for weeks to come.

"We're not as high as we would have loved to be since we always want to win," said Chuck Viane, Buena Vista's president of distribution. "But it's the first weekend in who knows how long where two movies did business and we're thrilled with that. This is one of those movies that you've got to just work forever. Similar to 'Flightplan' and 'Ladder 49,' we'll get our money the old-fashioned way, we'll work for it."

Viane is encouraged that the film's sophomore session will fall on the Columbus Day holiday, giving it an added boost for its second week in theaters.
Miramax opened Stephen Frears' "The Queen" with the New York Film Festival. Bowing on two screens Saturday and Sunday, the Scott Rudin-produced film grossed $123,000. Miramax will expand the film into the top five markets next weekend.

"It's a fantastic start," said Daniel Battsek, president of Miramax Films, who got involved with the film while he was still based in London. "It was very striking yesterday to visit the cinemas and to see virtually every show sold out. People were queuing and buying tickets for the next show. It really makes it all worthwhile."
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