Cat Drags in Box Office Win

Universal’s big-screen adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss children’s book The Cat in the Hat had some box office magic under its red-and-white striped cap. Moviegoers coughed up an estimated $40 million to make the whimsical comedy No. 1 over the weekend. A built-in audience, the star power of Mike Meyers and fun digital animation and effects helped the film overcome unfavorable reviews and lure family audiences from New Line’s critically lauded holiday knee-slapper Elf.

The Cat in the Hat, about a magical feline who unleashes the imaginations of two bored kids and wreaks havoc on their home, features EFX work by Rhythm & Hues, Edge FX, Stan Winston Digital, Soho vfx and CobaltFX. Read more abut the film’s digital wizardry in the January issue of Animation Magazine.

Produced by Universal Pictures, DreamWorks S.K.G., Imagine Ent. and Alphaville Films, the pic is proving a worthy follow-up to Imagine’s 2000 live-action hit How the Grinch Stole Christmas, based on another timeless favorite by Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). That film pocketed $55 million during its opening weekend and went on to earn more than $260 million domestically.

While Cat’s box office dominance is no surprise, Warner Bros.’ chiller thriller Gothika surpassed expectations, raking in an estimated $19.6 million to grab the No. 2 spot. Film stars Halle Berry as a psychiatrist who wakes up to find herself a patient in the asylum in which she works. She has no memory of committing a horrible crime and thinks demonic possession may be at work. ComputerCafé crafted the film’s visual effects under the supervision of EFX director Louis Craig.

After climbing up a notch to No.1 in week two, Elf dropped to No. 3 this weekend with around $19.1 million and a three-week cume of just over $95 million. The big-budget Russell Crowe maritime adventure Master and Commander pulled a disappointing fourth place finish for Twentieth Century Fox. The $150 million epic is cruising at half sail with an estimated $47.2 million after two weeks, but critical acclaim and strong word of mouth may yet propel the historical actioner to a well-deserved financial victory.

Speaking of word of mouth, Universal’s Love, Actually is actually up 4% in week three with an estimated $9 million for the weekend and a cume of around $30.8 million. The well-reviewed, feel-good romantic comedy rounds out the top five and seems to be on its way to becoming sleeper hit a la My Big, Fat Greek Wedding.

Five weeks out of the gate, Disney’s animated adventure/comedy Bother Bear finally drops out of the top five with an estimated $5.4 for the weekend. The family flick has managed $70.4 million and may get another boost during the Thanksgiving holiday, depending on how much competition it gets from Disney’s own EFX-driven supernatural comedy The Haunted Mansion, which opens on Wednesday. Wednesday also sees the eagerly awaited U.S. release of The Belleville Triplets. The animated feature from French director Sylvain Chomet and production company Les Armatures is being released by Sony Pictures Classics, and has already made the Oscar short list for feature-animation contenders.