Taking a page from the biblical story of Noah's ark, Universal
Pictures launched its PG-rated comedy Evan Almighty
during the weekend. But while the film floated atop the North American boxoffice with an estimated $32.1 million, the studio found itself battling a perception that the returns on the pricey movie were less than miraculous.Paramount
Vantage's debut of the true-life thriller A Mighty Heart
also appeared to meet resistance. The political thriller, opening in 1,355 theaters, bowed to an estimated $4 million for a 10th-place showing overall.
On the other hand, MGM
's release of the Weinstein Co.'s PG-13 horror show 1408
exceeded expectations, seemingly reversing the boxoffice curse that has bedeviled R-rated horror movies in recent months by checking in with a strong second-place showing and an estimated $20.2 million.
For the fourth consecutive weekend, boxoffice returns for the top 10 films were down compared with the same frame a year ago. According to Nielsen EDI, the weekend's top 10 collected $122.6 million, down 2% from last year, when Sony
Pictures' comedy Click
led the listings with a $40 million opening.
's price tag -- the studio has officially pegged it at $175 million -- the movie might have set itself up for a fall. It follows in the wake of Jim Carrey
's PG-13 Bruce Almighty
, which opened in 2003 to a three-day take of $68 million during the Memorial Day weekend.
-- from director Tom Shadyac
and screenwriter Steve Oedekerk
, who both worked on the original -- was designed more as a spinoff than a direct sequel. The new movie follows Steve Carell
's character -- a preening newscaster in the first film -- who has been elected to the U.S. Congress and has moved his family to Virginia, where God (again in the form of Morgan Freeman) comes calling with predictions of stormy weather. In a bid for the family audience, Evan
stayed within PG territory and, with its biblical overtones, even reached out to heartland Christian audiences.
With the latest tracking studies leading into the weekend suggesting that Evan
would arrive in mid-$30 million territory, the movie's $32.1 million came up short. Its ultimate fate will depend on how much of a family audience it can attract during the next few weeks.
Universal reported Sunday that families accounted for 45% of Evan
's opening-weekend audience, with parents comprising 24% of the crowd and children under age 13 another 21%. Slightly more than half of the overall audience, 52%, was over 25. The film earned an A-minus rating from cinemaScore.