DWA toon lands on feet in soph sesh with $33 mil

Paramount-DreamWorks Animation 3D holdover “Puss in Boots” sunk its claws into the domestic B.O.’s top spot, with a remarkable drop of just 3% that yielded an estimated $33 million through Sunday, while “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” tallied a winning $40.8 million from 45 overseas markets.

In two weeks, “Puss” has surpassed $75 million in Stateside grosses; “Tintin,” $125 million internationally.

The weekend’s top domestic opener, Universal’s “Tower Heist,” came in at the low end of expectations with an estimated $25.1 million, while Warner Bros.’ “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” underperformed, grossing an estimated $13.1 million.

By midday Friday, most B.O. pundits expected a much closer race for the weekend crown between “Puss” and “Tower Heist” — it was thought “Puss” would drop around 30%, proving the unpredictability of family auds.

According to Par, a 3% drop in a pic’s second frame is a record. (“The Blind Side” saw an 18% increase in its second outing, but that was during Thanksgiving weekend. The last time a movie had a comparable nonholiday drop in its second weekend was in May 1996, when “Twister” dropped 10%.)

“Puss,” which collected a total $15 million overseas, also managed to hold well in markets including Russia, where the toon fell just 10% with $13.6 million, easily beating “Tintin,” which bowed there with $5.9 million.

Even though “Puss” certainly helped buoy Stateside conditions, the overall weekend B.O. was down 23% from the frame last year, a high-water November kickoff.

“We were expecting to be closer,” said Warner distribution exec Jeff Goldstein, referring to the total box office vs. 2010.

The benchmark hold for “Puss” proved Wall Street wrong: Last weekend’s $34 million opening was considered a troubling start for the toon and caused DWA’s stock to drop. But as Variety pointed out (Daily Variety, Oct. 31), DWA toons have a strong tradition of legging it out, with the studio’s marketing chief Anne Globe saying, “I think ‘Puss’ is poised to have a higher multiple than what is normal.”

A handful of holdovers expanding in repeat frames kept the specialty biz afloat.

Par Vantage’s “Like Crazy” scored a healthy $16,875 per-screen average from 16 locations, up from its debut count of four. Fox Searchlight’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” in its third frame, broadened to 98 locations (66 more than last weekend) for an estimated weekend tally of $471,000, averaging $4,806 per screen. “Martha” crossed the $1 million mark, while “Like Crazy,” with nearly $500,000, is playing similarly to “An Education,” which cumed $12.6 million in 2009.

Roadside Attraction’s Wall Street thriller “Margin Call” also continues to impress; the pic’s third-frame take ($774,300) boosted its cume to $2.6 million.

Beyond the expansions, Oscilloscope’s punk rock dad docu “The Other F Word” posted a decent per-screen average of $14,600 from two U.S. engagements.

‘Puss’ earns B.O. stripes

It seems Par made the right move in deciding to bump up the $130 million-budgeted toon by a week; the pic originally was slated to bow this weekend, but studio decided to give “Puss” more breathing room before Thanksgiving.

DWA’s Globe said the studio, in turn, shifted its marketing plan to accommodate a five-to-six-week long strategy from early October through this weekend. “We started with event-level marketing and drove the excitement coming off of week one into week two,” Globe said.

The studio inked several promotional partnerships with companies like Friskies and Avocados from Mexico, featuring pic-inspired recipes like the Humpty Dumptylicious Breakfast Sandwich.

This weekend last year, Par launched DWA’s “Megamind,” which topped its respective debut frame with $46 million, then fell (a respectable) 37% in its second outing. DWA’s most recent resilient toon, “How to Train Your Dragon,” bowed March 26, 2010, with $43.7 million and wound up cuming a mighty $217.6 million domestically.

It’s unlikely that “Puss” will reach those heights — a barrage of family films bows before Thanksgiving, starting with “Happy Feet Two” on Nov. 18.

3D ticket sales sunk slightly for “Puss,” contributing 48% of the weekend gross vs. the film’s 51% debut 3D share. Though Imax’s contribution held nearly even at $2.1 million (last weekend the take was $2.2 million), Globe said the film’s overall 3D perf was still better than that of summer 3D family films such as “Cars 2″ at 40%.

At the other end of the 3D spectrum, “Harold and Kumar’s” total gross may have been underwhelming, but the 3D aspect was popular, with 95% of the market, similar to last year’s “Jackass 3D” (91%). As with “Jackass,” the 3D success for “Harold and Kumar” isn’t too surprising, since under-25 males are the format’s biggest supporters. Men contributed 62% of the pic’s opening, with 73% of total auds under 35.

The “Harold and Kumar” franchise does well on DVD, so theatrical biz is less crucial. Series’ third installment, from New Line, cost a reported $20 million, while “Tower Heist” was budgeted at $85 million.

Both pics scored B CinemaScore ratings, but “Harold and Kumar” played better with its core demo.

“Tower Heist” also received much better exit polls taken on Saturday, according to U, as the film’s targeted crowd — adult filmgoers — usually avoid opening night, when CinemaScore conducts its surveys. The film skewed 56% male, with 62% of its debut aud over 30.

“We’re hopeful that the film, based on our strong exit polls, will continue to be the comedy of choice for adults in the weeks to come,” said U prexy of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco.

Sturdy o’seas B.O.

“Tintin,” distribbed internationally by Sony and Par, earned most of its weekend coin in France, contributing $7.8 million. The pic’s local take was off 64%, though last weekend in Gaul saw increased holiday traffic. French cume is almost $40 million.

Spain held better, down 12%, for a local weekend take of $6.2 million, while Germany ($3.6 million) and the U.K. ($3.3 million) saw weekend-to-weekend drops for “Tintin” of 22% and 45%, respectively.

Other solid overseas players include Fox’s “In Time,” which earned an additional $16.6 million for an international cume of $38.1 million. Budgeted at around $40 million, “In Time” has grossed $62.3 million globally.

“Tower Heist,” meanwhile, debuted in 23 offshore markets, including the U.K., Germany and Spain, with a total $9.5 million.

And Gotham’s Metropolitan Opera continued its sixth season of live transmissions on Saturday, screening Wagner’s “Siegfried” for an estimated $1.5 million in North America. It was seen live on more than 850 screens, with an additional 600 in a total of 39 overseas markets.

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