Bear Market for Disney

Disney’s latest animated venture, Brother Bear, opened in wide release over the weekend to the tune of an estimated $18.5 million, making it the second best Halloween opener behind last year’s Jackass: The Movie, which bowed to $22.7 million. There is now speculation that the Mouse House’s decision to open the movie on Saturday instead of Friday may have robbed it of the No. 1 spot, which was again claimed by New Line’s horror spoof Scary Movie 3. That film did an additional $21 million (est.) to bring its grand total to around $78.6 million.

The only other family film Brother Bear had to compete with is MGM’s talking dog-from-outer space flick Good Boy, which has been out now for four weeks and is hanging in the top 10 at No. 10. Featuring visual effects by Jim Henson Creature Shop, the critically panned live-action/CG mix ended up with around $2.5 million for the weekend and a respectable cume in the $35 million ballpark.

Brother Bear’s performance is being closely watched because it is one of the last two 2D animated features on Disney’s release slate. After Home on the Range debuts next year, the studio plans to push only computer-animated fare through the pipeline. Chicken Little (2005) will be its first 3D effort produced outside of its highly profitable relationship with Pixar. It is also in production on the WWII pigeon story Valiant (2004) with U.K. 3D house Vanguard Animation.

The Hollywood Reporter brings word that Brother Bear directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker, along with producer Chuck Williams, have signed the deal to produce their next project with Disney. No details on the upcoming film are currently available. The three have been with Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida since it opened its doors 1989. Blaise served as a supervising animator on characters in such films as Aladdin, The Lion King and Mulan, while Walker supervised the layout department on Mulan and Lilo & Stitch. Williams came up from the Feature Animation Special Projects unit in 1998 to develop feature projects at the Orlando facility.

New Line’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ($10.9 million est.), Sony Pictures’ Radio ($10.2 million est.) and Fox’s Runaway Jury ($6.8 million est.) round out the weekend’s top five box office performers.

In other box office news, Ridley Scott’s director’s cut of the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien came back in limited re-release to scare up another $1.3 million in just 347 theaters. This time around, the highly influential screamer includes additional footage that hasn’t even been seen on DVD versions.