DWA toon wins with $34 mil amid sluggish domestic B.O.

“Puss in Boots” broke the Halloween weekend record by a whisker at the domestic B.O. with a $34 million opening, but with early snowstorms and Halloween festivities afoot, the Paramount-DreamWorks Animation toon wasn’t frisky enough to revitalize the soft theatrical biz. “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” won the world, totaling an estimated $55.8 million from 19 European markets, while “Shrek” spinoff “Puss” took $51 million globally.

B.O. pundits thought “Puss,” which earned a so-so 51% of its opening from 3D, would benefit more from a five-week gap in the family market (“Dolphin Tale” was the last family-targeted film to bow, on Sept. 23). The usually fanboy-driven Imax format contributed a solid 7% of the total domestic opening for “Puss,” with $3.2 million globally.

DWA films often see modest openings that turn into stellar repeat perfs, both domestically andabroad (e.g., “Madagascar,” “How to Train Your Dragon”). Par bumped up the release of “Puss” by a week to give it breathing room before the holidays.

“There’s a ton of family product coming up, and we felt there was a need for a family film this weekend that positions us nicely to play through November,” said newly reupped DWA marketing chief Anne Globe.

“Puss in Boots” launched with $17 million from three overseas markets, led by a stellar $15 million debut in Russia.

Domestically, “Puss” narrowly beat the Halloween weekend’s previous best, 2006’s “Saw III,” which opened with $33.6 million.

But wintry conditions in the Northeast significantly reduced the pic’s expected Friday-Saturday bump in key markets like New York, where Saturday grosses for “Puss” were up only 20% over Friday; in L.A. the pic saw a 49% improvement vs. opening day.

Despite the snow, B.O. was still up approximately 8% over the same frame last year.

Twentieth Century Fox’s sci-fier “In Time” bowed in line with expectations, grossing an estimated $12 million through Sunday, while the weekend’s other wide release, FilmDistrict’s “The Rum Diary,” underperformed with $5 million.

Sony, meanwhile, did well with its scaled-back release of “Anonymous,” which received an A- CinemaScore rating. Opening per-screen average of $3,774 was an OK result considering the film opened at a still-aggressive (for a limited release) 265 Stateside locations. Based on soft early tracking, Sony decided late in the game to go limited with “Anonymous.”

Par’s Sundance award-winning “Like Crazy,” distribbed via the studio’s Par Vantage label, came out strong with an estimated weekend gross of $120,000 from four locations. Par will add 14 locations for the film next weekend.

In a solid soph-sesh expansion, Fox Searchlight’s indie thriller “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” with an additional 28 locations (for a total 32), averaged a solid weekend per-screen average of $7,517. Pic has tallied $439,544 domestically to date, with 63 new theaters skedded to open in its third frame.

‘Tintin’ travels

Bowing in Europe nearly two months ahead of the U.S., Steven Spielberg’s 3D motion-capture version of the comicbook series unsurprisingly hit high-water marks in several territories via distribs Sony and Par, including France and the U.K., which brough in $10.7 million.

France contributed an overwhelming $21.5 million since the pic bowed there on Wednesday, making the “Tintin” opening the biggest for a nonsequel in Gaul. The bow was also the territory’s second-biggest this year, behind that of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

In the property’s home country of Belgium, “Tintin” delivered 2011’s best debut perf, with $2.1 million — slightly higher than the opening for another Belgian property, “The Smurfs.”

“Tintin” launched this weekend in roughly 56% of international markets, with Sony handling most territories (Par has domestic rights, along with all other English-speaking countries and Asia). The film, which bows Stateside Dec. 21, is expected to play best overseas.

Par screened “Tintin” last week for U.S. exhibs at the ShowEast confab, where it played to enthusiastic response as well as concern over whether domestic auds would warm to the property.

B.O.’s feline player

“Puss in Boots,” meanwhile, was almost guaranteed to work with American moviegoers, based on the massive popularity for Par’s “Shrek” franchise.

“Puss” received an A- CinemaScore rating, which bodes well for holdover frames. But the toon fell considerably short of “Megamind,” DWA’s fall 2010 entry that opened the weekend of Nov. 5 to $46 million. “Megamind” eventually cumed just slightly three times its opening at $148 million domestically.

“Puss in Boots” drew a sizable Hispanic crowd at 35%.

Family-targeted holdovers saw some of the weekend’s biggest drops: “Real Steel” dropped 57% in its fourth week, while “Dolphin Tale” fell 62% in its sixth frame.

“Paranormal Activity 3″ saw the weekend’s steepest drop at 65%, though that’s typical of horror films (“Paranormal 2″ dropped 59% in its second frame but also earned less from midnight screenings than “Paranormal 3″).

Fox’s new entry “In Time” split evenly between men and women, with slightly more filmgoers over 25. Chris Aronson, Fox senior VP of domestic distribution, said the breakdown isn’t unusual in the current market, as under-25 auds haven’t been turning out. “In Time” received a B- CinemaScore rating.

“I love the gender split, and the age split is right in line with the norm now,” Aronson said.

FilmDistrict’s R-rated “Rum Diary” drew a C CinemaScore rating. “While we all wish the numbers were better, we’re proud of the film and its loving tribute to Hunter S. Thompson,” said Bob Berney, prexy of theatrical distribution at FilmDistrict.

Roadside Attractions more than doubled the locations for “Margin Call,” screening the film at 140 playdates. Move paid off, with the film averaging $5,095 per screen for an estimated weekend take of $713,285. Cume is $1.5 million after just two weeks.

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