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‘Ice Age,’ ‘Transformers’ tie for top spot

Fox's toon breaks foreign box office records

It was a win-win situation at the box office, with “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” raking in record international box office for an animated pic, while “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” became the year’s domestic B.O. champ.

Opening on Wednesday to get the jump on the holiday weekend, 20th Century Fox’s “Ice Age 3” won the five-day sesh with $67.5 million; the “Transformers” sequel took $65 million. The 3-D dinosaurs trampled the world’s box office, with the biggest opening ever for an animated film at $148 million. Worldwide total stands at $215.5 million.

For the three-day weekend sesh, “Ice Age” and “Transformers” raced to a rare tie, with $42.5 million. (The victor will likely be decided when the final numbers come in this ayem.)

“Revenge of the Fallen” lit up the holiday box office frame by becoming the highest-grossing pic of the year, with a domestic cume of $293.5 million in its 12th day in release. The only film to have amassed a higher gross in such a short time is “The Dark Knight.” Worldwide tally for “Transformers 2” is a massive $591 million.

Universal’s Johnny Depp gangster pic “Public Enemies,” which also opened Wednesday, served as solid counterprogramming to the two tentpoles. Period piece, directed by Michael Mann, grossed $41 million in its first five days at the domestic B.O. and $5.3 million from five territories overseas, bringing worldwide cume to $46.3 million.

Distribs and exhibs were expecting a slow holiday Saturday, but the drop was even bigger than expected at 30% or more.

Yet the weekend was still up over the same domestic frame last year as there was something for everyone on the marquee. There had been concern that “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” and “Public Enemies” might get lost in the shadow of “Revenge of the Fallen,” but both came in on the upper end of expectations.

The third “Ice Age” pic’s five-day domestic debut of $67.5 million nearly matched the $68 million opening of the previous installment, “Ice Age: The Meltdown.”

Fox took a calculated risk in opening the threequel in summer. The first two films debuted in March, when there is far less competition, but the third is benefiting from summer vacation.

“Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” opening on 11,652 screens in 101 markets, saw the sixth best international opening of all time behind (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” tops the list).

“Ice Age 3” likely took a bite out of “Transformers 2” internationally, although the latter still pulled in $55 million for the sesh.

Fox co-prexies of international distribution Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus said “Ice Age 3” played incredibly broadly, fueled by a massive international marketing campaign that included numerous promotion partners.

“We had a great date, and we think we will keep playing and playing. The ‘Ice Age’ franchise has become an institution, and we powered through any disadvantages we had, such as weather,” Hanneman said.

The film scored the biggest international opening ever in numerous territories, led by Russia at $18.9 million, Brazil at $10.3 million and Mexico at $10 million. Other countries included Austria, Chile, Peru and Colombia. In Mexico, the opening was 100% ahead of the “Transformers 2” debut and 81% ahead of “Dark Knight.”

“Dawn of the Dinosaurs” broke the record for the biggest animated opening in several individual territories as well, including France at $11.1 million.

“Ice Age 3’s” worldwide gross was boosted by its 3-D runs, which repped the widest opening to date for a 3-D title, both domestically and abroad. In the U.S. toon played on 1,606 3-D screens. Overseas, the 2,126 3-D screens grossed a combined $51 million, repping 34% of the entire gross, even though the screens comprised only 18% of the entire run.

Fox VP of domestic distribution Bert Livingston said the studio was elated with the overall result.

“I think we are in rarefied air. To be in a virtual tie for the weekend with one of the biggest event films ever is a great start,” Livingston said.

“Ice Age 3” represents a sizable victory for Fox Animation topper Vanessa Morrison.

Meanwhile, Universal was pleased with “Public Enemies,” which overcame concerns that a more serious drama wouldn’t play in summer.

“Everyone questioned whether this film would do good business. It turned out to be a great holiday weekend for fans of adult titles,” said U prexy of worldwide marketing and distribution Adam Fogelson.

The “Public Enemies” opening, the best ever for Mann, is a testament to Depp’s appeal, proving he can open a pic even when not dressed as a pirate.

Among holdovers, Disney’s romantic comedy “The Proposal” ended the weekend with an impressive worldwide gross of $123.7 million. Coming in No. 4 domestically, pic dipped just 31% to an estimated $12.8 million from 3,099 runs; cume is $94.2 million. Overseas, the Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds starrer grossed $4.2 million from 1,753 runs in 15 territories for a cume of $29.5 million.

Warner Bros.’ “The Hangover” jumped the $200 million mark domestically, grossing an estimated $10.5 million from 3,070 theaters for a cume of $204.2 million. Overseas, film grossed $8.7 million from 1,975 screens in 30 markets for a cume of $61.5 million and worldwide tally of $265.7 million. That’s within earshot of the global take for “Wedding Crashers” at $285.2 million.

At the specialty box office, Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker” secured the best per-location average of any film. The Kathryn Bigelow-directed war drama grossed an estimated $126,000 from nine locations for a per-screen average of $14,000 and cume of $365,000 in its second sesh. Its holding power will be tested when it expands into smaller markets.

Focus Features’ “Away We Go,” from Sam Mendes, ended its fifth sesh with an impressive cume of $6.1 million after posting a weekend gross of $1.1 million from 506 locations.

Sony Pictures Classics’ sci-fi drama “Moon” grossed $300,485 in its fourth weekend from 47 locations, raising its per-screen average to $6,393 with a cume of $982,527.

Sony Classics’ Woody Allen pic “Whatever Works” grossed $1.1 million from 355 locations for the weekend, putting its cume at $2 million in its third frame — an improvement on Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dream” last year.

Miramax’s “Cheri,” directed by Stephen Frears, failed to catch on in its second sesh, with an estimated $388,000 from 140 locations and cume of $1 million. Magnolia’s had more success with docu “Food, Inc.,” which grossed $240,000 from 83 screens for a $1.28 million cume.

Among openers, Magnolia’s “The Girl From Monaco” grossed $90,000 from 21 theaters for a per-location average of $4,286.

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