Elf, Bro Bear Upset Looney Tunes

The weekend box office held a lot of surprises as New Line’s Will Ferrell comedy Elf jumped to No. 1 in its second week, outdoing the big-budget newcomer Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Another unexpected turn was Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes: Back in Action debuting in fifth place behind Disney’s animated family flick Brother Bear, which is now in its third week of wide release.

Despite its considerable marketing blitz and undeniable star power, the $80 million Back in Action only netted around $9.5 million, failing to draw the bulk of the family audience, which instead opted for Elf ($27.2 million est.) and Brother Bear ($12 million est.). The comedic mix of live-action and animation was expected to fare much better considering its predecessor, Space Jam, opened to $27.5 million in November of 1996 and went on to earn $90.4 million domestically.

Back in Action stars Brendan Fraser, who teams up with Jenna Elfman and the animated Looney Tunes gang to find his missing adventurer father (Timothy Dalton) and a fabled precious stone. Steve Martin, Heather Locklear, John Cleese and Joan Cusack also make appearances.

Brother Bear continues to growl for Disney. The traditionally animated hit only dropped off 4% in week two and 35% in week three of wide release, a sign of positive word of mouth. So far, the film has earned an estimated $63 million, and if it keeps up its current pace, it should reach the coveted $100 million mark by the end of the holiday season.

Despite being thwarted by elfin magic, Russell Crowe’s latest epic adventure made a strong second place finish with around $25.7 million. Master and Commander features EFX by Asylum Effects, ILM, Weta Workshop, CaféFX, Pacific Title & Art Studio and Digital Backlot. Pablo Helman (Star Wars: Episode 2–Attack of the Clones, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) serves as visual effects supervisor.

Warner Bros.’ The Matrix: Revolutions took a steep 66% dive in its second week. The last installment in the trilogy dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 with an estimated $16.3 million. While the sci-fi mind bender made a major cash splash with its simultaneous worldwide release, it is failing to match the domestic returns of The Matrix: Reloaded, which pulled in $200 million in week two, compared to Revolutions’ estimated $114 million.

Elf’s box office reign will be challenged next weekend when Will Ferrell gets some friendly competition from fellow Saturday Night Live alum Mike Meyers in the big-screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat. The added family film competition will also test Brother Bear’s sturdy legs.