$47 mil makes 'Talladega' year's best laffer opening

Will Ferrell’s star power got a major boost this weekend as he lapped the competition with “Talladega Nights,” which grossed a bigger-than-expected $47 million.

Pic is the best comedy bow of the year and the No. 2 original comedy opening of all time, behind only “Bruce Almighty.”

While none of the other three wide openers — “Barnyard,” “The Descent” and “The Night Listener” — got past the midteens, and last week’s top pic, “Miami Vice,” fell 60%-plus, “Talladega Nights” helped rev the weekend up to a sizable 22% advantage over the same frame a year ago. 2006 box office is now 6% ahead of 2005, according to Nielsen EDI.

“Talladega” was Ferrell’s biggest opening by far, well ahead of “Elf’s” $31.1 million, and his first No. 1 bow.

Auds were 53% male, but skewed young, with 52% under 25. Sony distribution prexy Rory Bruer noted the pic played well in both NASCAR-centric markets and in general release.

“We were very strong in the South and Southeast, but whether it was small towns or big cities, having Will Ferrell in a NASCAR movie got just about everybody,” Bruer said.

“Talladega” averaged $12,359 at 3,803 playdates. That’s the widest opening ever for a non-animated comedy.

Sony has already bought a pitch for co-stars Ferrell and John C. Reilly and helmer Adam McKay’s next pic, “Step Brothers” (Daily Variety, Aug. 4).

Paramount’s “Barnyard” took second place with a decent $16 million. The Nickelodeon toon wasn’t expected to gross much since it entered a market crowded with animated pics, as “The Ant Bully” opened last week and “Monster House” two weeks ago.

Modestly budgeted CGI toon, which cost around $50 million, has the advantage of no more toons opening until mid-September, after a three-week period with one every frame.

“The Descent” did a so-so $8.8 million, about even with weekend expectations. Lionsgate picked up the horror film for just $1 million.

Not many people tuned into “The Night Listener,” as the new Miramax’s first wide release opened to a weak $3.6 million. Playing 1,367 locations, the Robin Williams starrer took $2,634 per play.

“Miami Vice” didn’t hold nearly as well as Michael Mann’s last pic, “Collateral,” dashing Universal’s hopes it could turn a $25.7 million bow into a strong run at the B.O. Colin Farrell/Jamie Foxx starrer plunged 62% in its second frame to $9.7 million. “Collateral” fell only 35% on its second weekend.

That put “Vice” at No. 4, behind the fifth frame of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” Disney’s sequel dropped 47% to $11 million, bringing its total plunder to an amazing $379.7 million and making it the No. 8 domestic grosser of all time.

Small stuff

In limited release, “Little Miss Sunshine” continues to play extremely well as Fox Searchlight expanded it from seven to 58 theaters. High-profile Sundance buy grossed a strong $1.5 million, or $25,169 per play, as it hit the top 10 markets and two cities in Canada. Cume is now $2.2 million.

Sony Pictures Classics opened its award-winning Sundance buy “Quinceanera” to a solid $96,942 at eight locations, averaging $12,118.

Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn took over the previously self-distributed senior citizen romantic comedy “Boynton Beach Club” and grossed a solid $168,350, or $4,550 per play. Cume to date is $754,379.

IFC expanded punk rock mockumentary “Brothers of the Head” from one theater to 11 and did a weak $11,395, or just $1,036 per location. Cume is $20,399.

Bauer-Martinez’s “The Groomsmen” went from eight to 25 playdates and grossed a dismal $16,000, averaging $640.

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