Auds Devour Chicken Little

Box office numbers may be sagging this year, but Disney’s Chicken Little did its part to help keep the sky from falling over the weekend. The studio’s first stab at making its own fully CG feature paid off handsomely as the family comedy earned an estimated $40 million right out of the coop, easily claiming the top spot despite a strong bow from Universal’s Gulf War drama, Jarhead.

Chicken Little’s initial take may look like chicken feed compared to that of Pixar’s last effort, The Incredibles, which opened to $70.4 million domestically last November. Still Disney’s latest outperformed the such recent toon releases as Disney’s Valiant ($5.9 million), Warner Bros.’ Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride ($19.1 million) and DreamWorks’ Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ($16 million.) DreamWorks’ Madagascar did slightly better, pulling in $47.2 million in its first weekend.

The competition posed by Chicken Little dealt a blow to Wallace & Gromit, which slipped from No. 5 to No. 13 in its fifth week. But don’t shed a tear for the clay-animated pic about a wacky inventor and his canine companion. The movie has been dogging the competition overseas and has taken in more than $145 million worldwide.

Jarhead, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Fox, came in at No.2 with an estimated $28.7 million. Meanwhile, Lions Gate’s Saw II remained healthy in the post-Halloween frame. Made for a mere $4 million, the horror show hacked off another $17 million to bring its two-week cumulative to around $60.4 million. In contrast, Sony’s $75 million The Legend of Zorro floundered in the No. 4 spot with an estimated $10 million and a $30 million two-week take. Rounding out the top five was Universal’s Prime, a relationship comedy starring Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep, with approximately $5.2 million.