Depp-voiced toon bests other new releases

“Rango” may not be in 3D, but the CG chameleon showed this weekend that the right 2D family title can help the box office gain dimension.

Even without the benefit of a 3D upcharge, Paramount’s “Rango” had a solid showing in its opening weekend with an estimated $38 million from 3,917 locations, making it the year’s highest non-holiday three-day bow.

The toon’s debut, while short of “How to Train Your Dragon’s” 3D opening last spring at $43.7 million, sold a comparable number of tickets to “Dragon” and “Megamind.”

Boosted by a tasty Saturday (up 73% over Friday), “Rango” easily beat the frame’s three other wide releases, including No. 2 title, Universal’s “The Adjustment Bureau,” which had a strong start with an estimated $20.9 million.

Industryites had hoped the weekend’s new entries would inject some much-needed life into what has been a relatively feeble box office. But the same weekend last year was invigorated by “Alice in Wonderland’s” $116 million 3D opening, so the past weekend ultimately declined 32% from 2010.

Still, Stateside B.O.’s leading duo had extensive day and date international bows in some major markets, including the U.K. and Spain.

“Rango” went out in 33 territories (or half of the international marketplace), with a projected $16.5 million, while “Adjustment Bureau” estimated $10.5 million from 21 foreign markets.

“Adjustment Bureau’s” domestic take bested U’s pre-weekend mid-to-high teens projection, but those expectations might have been low, according to B.O. pundits.

Fellow opener “Beastly” also surpassed distrib CBS Films’ expectations to claim the frame’s No. 3 spot, clicking with teens for an estimated $10.1 million.

The weekend’s fourth wide entry, Relativity Media’s “Take Me Home Tonight,” failed to crack the top 10, with an off-tune $3.5 million.

Last weekend’s tussling titles “Hall Pass” and “Gnomeo and Juliet” rounded out the top five, with Warner Bros.’ “Hall Pass” falling just 33% for an estimated take of $9 million.

“Hall Pass” likely scooped spectators from the similarly targeted “Take Me Home Tonight,” while Disney’s “Gnomeo and Juliet” had a strong hold, down 48%, considering “Rango” diverted a sizeable portion of family auds.

“Gnomeo” took in an estimated $6.9 million, bringing its cume to $83.7 million in four weeks; “Hall Pass” has totaled $27 million.

Meanwhile, the Weinstein Co.’s “The King’s Speech” fell just 11% in its 15th week of release (and first post-Oscars weekend), with an estimated haul of $6.5 million.

“King’s” steady hold is good news for the pic as it looks to capitalize on its Oscar wins in the coming weeks.

So far, the film has totaled $123.8 million, which makes it TWC’s all-time top domestic grosser, surpassing “Inglourious Basterds” with $120.5 million.

Deviating from its usual DWA toon partnership, Par instead teamed up on “Rango” with vfx shop Industrial Light & Magic and helmer Gore Verbinksi’s Blink Wink production company.

The new partnership produced a decidedly more adult-skewing toon, with Johnny Depp toplining the voice cast. Par marketed the film using Depp as the major draw for adults, and according to weekend tracking services (conducted on Friday), 54% of its aud was over 25.

That figure is somewhat misleading, however, considering the toon had a massive uptick on Saturday, thanks mostly to families who typically wait until then to visit the multiplexes, explained Par vice chairman Rob Moore.

“When you have something that’s very unique, it is sometimes harder for people to get their head around,” Moore said, referring to “Rango’s” less-than-desireable C+ CinemaScore rating. “But by being a unique film, it sparks conversation and people usually want to check it out for themselves.”

Toon’s strong resurgence on Saturday could mean better turnout among families over the coming weeks, Moore said. And with spring break staggered throughout the next month, the film, budgeted at a reported $135 million, is timed to benefit from kids on vacation.

The spring break boost could help “Beastly,” which played best to the expected teen and ‘tween girls, who gave the pic an overall B+ CinemaScore rating.

“Normally, I get very upset when I see teens texting and tweeting when the movie’s on,” said CBS Films distrib topper Steven Friedlander.

“But I liked it this time because I knew what they were saying, ‘Hey, this is really cool, go see it.'”

U’s “Adjustment Bureau” attracted a mostly adult audience, with 73% over 30 and a 53%-47% female-male split. Pic received an overall B rating, but scored better with moviegoers 34 and under.

“It was good counterprogramming to ‘Rango,’ which was rated PG, and globally, I think we had a great result,” said U prexy of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco.

Rocco applauded the studio’s marketing efforts on “Adjustment Bureau,” which helped make the film one of Matt Damon’s best openings for a non-franchise pic. That gives the $62 million-budgeted pic potentially solid footing throughout its theatrical run.

Meanwhile, Relativity’s reported $10-million price tag for “Take Me Home Tonight” should help counter its soft opening, but an undesirable C CinemaScore rating could limit playability.

“Take Me Home Tonight,” directed by Michael Dowse and toplining Topher Grace and Anna Faris, was included in Relativity’s acquisition of Rogue Pictures from Universal. And while the film played best to the under-25 crowd (55%), it ended up with only half of industry projections, which ranged between $5 million-$7 million.

Kevin Smith’s “Red State,” which garnered attention at Sundance for Smith’s publicity-generating antics, launched a U.S. roadshow tour this weekend ahead of the Oct. 19 theatrical release.

Kicking off with one screening at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on Saturday, the show took in $161,590, thanks to a hefty $50-to -$100 ticket charge. “Red State” screened Sunday night in Boston and hits Chicago and Minneapolis this week.

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