Bows settle for seconds as 'Chicken' shows zesty legs

It was a better weekend to be a chick than a rapper.

In a very positive sign for Disney’s fledgling CG animation department, “Chicken Little” dropped just 20% in its second weekend, raking in $32 million to take first place with more than double its nearest competitor.

Meanwhile, weekend’s highest profile opener, Par’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” grossed just $12.5 million in three days, putting it in fourth place.

Frame’s other family pic, Sony’s “Zathura,” took second with $14 million.

Strong showings for two family pics indicate it could be a good holiday season for the genre. Both will be put to the test, however, when “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” has what’s expected to be a huge bow next weekend.

The small drop for “Chicken Little” stood in contrast to U’s “Jarhead,” which declined 56% in its second week to $12.3 million. Despite political relevance of the war in Iraq, pic looks unlikely to exceed its $72 million budget at the domestic box office.

“Black Hawk Down,” to which Universal compared its pic last week, grossed over $28 million in its first wide frame in 2002, but fell only 40% in its second frame.

Cume on “Jarhead” stands at $47.1 million.

Weinstein Co.’s “Derailed” eked out third place, just ahead of “Get Rich” and “Jarhead.” Estimated take was $12.8 million.

50 Cent starrer made $18.2 million since its Wednesday bow. Pic had the highest per-screen average of any wide opener, as it had just 1,652 plays, but still came in below what Par was hoping, especially when compared with “8 Mile.” Also based on the life of a hip-hop star and helmed by an established talent, that pic bowed to $51.2 million on 2,470 screens the same weekend in 2002. It went on to earn $116.8 million.

“It came in a little on the low side,” said Par distrib topper Wayne Lewellen. “Had it not opened on Wednesday, I think the three-day figure would have been higher and research would have been on target.”

Pic played young to both men and women according to exit polling.

While “Chicken Little’s” $40 million opening weekend was far below the $70 million debut haul for Pixar-produced “The Incredibles” last year, 20% drop for the Mouse House-made pic is less than the 29% decline for “Incredibles” in its second weekend.

Mouse House benefited from Veterans Day falling on a Friday. With most tots out of school, studio had an extra day’s worth of matinees.

“This was certainly spearheaded by the holiday falling on a Friday, but it also shows we have great word of mouth,” said Disney distribution prexy Chuck Vianne. “It’s an affirmation by the public of Disney Animation again.”

Studio was helped by the 84 screens showing the pic in 3-D. They brought in $1.8 million, or about $21,500 each. Haul from 3-D plays declined just 17%.

With cume at $80.3 million, “Chicken Little” is now on track to gross more than $100 million by its third weekend and could easily top out over $150 million.

While undoubtedly below what Sony was initially hoping for with the effects-heavy pic, “Zathura” opened at the high end of weekend expectations on its 3,223 screens.

Aud was 71% family. Pic got generally good reviews and exit marks, leading Sony to hope it will show some legs.

“It’s a solid start for us going into the holidays,” distrib topper Rory Bruer said.

“Derailed,” first solo release by the Weinstein Co., performed slightly ahead of expectations. Aud was 60% female. But with high marks from men in exit polls, studio is looking for pic to hold up well.

“It’s all about crossing it over now and getting more men,” marketing head Gary Faber said. “With the way the competition is looking, we think there’s room for a film like ours.”

Weinstein Co. is planning to add around 200 plays to the 2,441 screens “Derailed” was on this past weekend.

With estimates so close, “Derailed,” “Jarhead” or “Get Rich” could end up in third place when final figures come in today.

In eighth and ninth places were two pics that have shown strong legs. U’s “Prime” fell just 23% in its third week to $4 million, its second straight sub-25% drop, bringing its total take to $19 million.

Similarly, DreamWorks family film “Dreamer” declined only 21% in its fourth week, similar to last week’s small drop. Cume is $28.9 million.

Total weekend take was down 11% from a year ago. Year to date, 2005 is off 7% from 2004, while the fall is down just 3%.

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