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‘Wall-E,’ ‘Wanted’ wow box office

Revenues for the year top 2007 levels

Pixar and Disney’s endearing “Wall-E” and Universal’s Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy actioner “Wanted” made for another boffo weekend at the summer box office as overall revenues for the year moved ahead of 2007 for the first time in months.

The critically acclaimed “Wall-E,” directed by Andrew Stanton, easily won the weekend, grossing an estimated $62.5 million from 3,992 runs. The R-rated “Wanted” rocketed past expectations, grossing an estimated $51.1 million from 3,175.

Each made the record books.

“Wall-E” was anything but robotic, scoring the second best June opening of all time, after “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” ($94.7 million). Opening is the third highest among the nine Pixar films after “The Incredibles” ($70.5 million) and “Finding Nemo” ($70.2 million). And at $23.1 million, toon scored the biggest opening-day gross of any Pixar title, reflecting the fact that kids were out of school and free to hit theaters on Friday.

“Wanted” scored the best opening ever for an R-rated film released in June and the sixth best of all time for any R-rated pic. Film, also starring Morgan Freeman, placed No. 2 for the weekend and played well across ethnic groups. U said it’s already eyeing a sequel.

Strength of the domestic box office in June suggests that soaring gas prices and the sagging economy have left Americans eager to escape — without necessarily traveling out of town. For the most part, Hollywood’s summer slate is hitting the right chord with consumers.

Weekend was up by as much as 20% vs. the same frame last year, topping off an unusually strong June that has given the domestic box office a needed boost. Heading into the weekend, revenues were essentially running even with 2007 year-to-date. Through Sunday, revs were slightly ahead, by as much as 0.7%.

Summer box office grosses are up 4% over last year, making summer 2008 the best on record so far. Attendance is up 1% for the summer, and 14% for June, but is still running behind 2007 year-to-date by more than 2%.

That doesn’t mean the summer box office has been devoid of drama — or disappointments.

Over the weekend, Mike Myers’ comedy “The Love Guru” again failed to find much good karma as it slipped 61% in its second frame to an estimated $5.4 million; cume is just $25.3 million in its first 10 days.

That compares with an estimated cume of $77.3 million for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s “Get Smart,” which opened against “Love Guru.” “Get Smart” held well in its second frame, coming in No. 3 and declining 48% to an estimated $20 million from 3,915.

DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s “Kung Fu Panda” held well, too — despite the entry of “Wall-E.” In its fourth weekend, “Panda” placed No. 4, declining 46% to an estimated $11.7 million for a cume of $179.3 million.

Par’s PG-13 “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” another film popular with families, continues to show legs. Pic came in No. 7 in its sixth week and will cross the $300 million mark at the domestic box office on Monday. Cume through Sunday was $299.9 million.

While it played mostly like a family film, “Wall-E” also appealed to adults, as have other Pixar titles. Of the adults going to see “Wall-E,” 22% were without kids. Overall, the film skewed slightly female at 51%.

“Wall-E” received rave notices. Film won over both children and grownups with its irresistible title character, a romantic robot that goes to the ends of the Earth — and the universe — to win over the alien robot he desires.

Every Pixar movie has opened at No. 1, which Disney prexy of distribution Chuck Viane characterized as “one of the most envied track records in show business.”

Among action films, “Wanted” sucked up most of the oxygen in the arena. Auds have made it clear they like to see Jolie in shoot-’em-up action roles, as some of her more dramatic outings haven’t translated into box office wins.

“Wanted,” about a team of super-assassins, skewed slightly male at 52% and slightly younger, with 51% of the aud under age 30. It also played well to Hispanic and African-American auds.

Universal originally planned to open “Wanted” in the spring but then moved it to summer.

“We realized there was nothing like it in the marketplace. It was perfect timing, and we saw a great result,” U prexy of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco said.

“Wanted” opening was the third highest ever for an R-rated action film, after “The Matrix Reloaded” ($91.7 million) and “300” ($70.9 million).

Film did see a Friday-to-Saturday drop of 8%. U’s distribution chief noted that “Wall-E” saw a Friday-to-Saturday drop of 5%, whereas family films generally see an uptick on Saturday. (At the same time, most family toons don’t have such big opening-day grosses.)

“Wanted” paralleled the opening of Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt actioner “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” which opened to $50.3 million in June 2005 on its way to cuming $186.3 million domestically.

“Wanted” will face competition from “Hancock,” opening Tuesday, as well as from U’s own “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” which opens July 11. “Wanted,” though, is edgier and rated R; the other two films are rated PG-13.

U and Marvel’s “The Incredible Hulk” fell off 58% over the weekend to an estimated $9.2 million from 3,349 runs for a cume of $115.5 million in its third frame. Pic placed No. 5 for the weekend. U remains confident that the film will do as much business as Ang Lee’s “Hulk,” which grossed $132.2 million domestically.

M. Night Shyamalan’s R-rated “The Happening” came in No. 8, declining 63% in its third frame to an estimated $3.8 million for a cume of $59 million.

On the specialty side, IFC’s “The Last Mistress” posted a per-location average of $17,596 in its debut in two theaters as it grossed an estimated $35,192.

Samuel Goldwyn’s “Trumbo” grossed an estimated $28,500 from three runs in its debut for a per-screen average of $9,500.

In its second weekend, Picturehouse’s “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” nabbed the highest per-location average of the weekend at $21, 200 as it grossed an estimated $106,000 from five theaters for a cume of $449,121. Picturehouse opens the film nationwide on Wednesday, hoping it will succeed as a counterprogramming move.

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