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2 items from 2006

'Happy Feet' on top but 007 in hot pursuit

19 November 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

It looks as if the animated penguins beat out James Bond for first place at the North American boxoffice on the weekend before Thanksgiving. But with the two movies so close, it could be that Monday afternoon's final numbers will be the true determinant of who wins the frame.

As it stood Sunday, estimates reported by each of the studios indicated that Warner Bros. Pictures' Happy Feet is the winner by a $1.7 million margin. The PG-rated CG-animated film earned an estimated $42.3 million compared with Sony Pictures' Casino Royale, a Columbia Pictures/MGM co-production, which grossed $40.6 million.

The other new wide release, Universal Pictures' Let's Go to Prison, bowed at a dismal $2.1 million, good for 12th place overall.

Even with two $40 million-plus openers, the weekend still was down a staggering 22.3% compared with last year at this time, when Warners' juggernaut Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire bowed to $102 million and 20th Century Fox's Walk the Line opened to $22.3 million.

Today's numbers will be telling, considering that Casino is handicapped by a 140-minute run time, while Happy Feet's family-friendly themes will attract a lot of kid-priced tickets. Nonetheless, the two well-reviewed films each scored in the range expected.

For Warners, Happy Feet marked the company's largest bow for an animated movie. It also was the largest-opening animated Imax movie, pulling in an estimated $2.4 million on 79 screens, beating out the $2.1 million 3-D bow of The Polar Express. Overall, the penguin movie from director George Miller (Babe), a Village Roadshow co-production, grossed a solid per-theater average of an estimated $11,125.

"We're in great shape," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "Historically, family movies are outstanding over the holiday, so we are well positioned now. We think we'll play well through Christmas and the end of the year."

Armed with strong reviews and a debonair new Bond in British actor Daniel Craig, Casino definitely caught fire with audiences. Although it didn't open to the record-breaking $47 million of the last Bond outing, 2002's Die Another Day, the PG-13 Casino -- featuring Eva Green as the new Bond girl -- certainly could be deemed a success.

"Considering that Pierce Brosnan) began opening 'Bond' in the $20 million range and worked his way up to $40 million, the strength of Craig's terrific new Bond is evident," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. »

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China bans TV toons combined with live actors

22 February 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

BEIJING -- China has banned from television any new shows that combine animation with live actors in a move that could benefit the nascent domestic animation industry. In a Feb. 15 notice, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television said it would no longer allow hybrid programs and ordered designated animation channels to rid themselves of programs with human characters. One such film, Babe, was earlier banned in China on the grounds that animals don't talk. »

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