Eragon, Web Trail Happyness

Two promising vfx films took a back-seat to inspirational drama over the weekend as Sony’s The Pursuit of Happyness claimed the top spot at the box office. Based on a true story, the Will Smith vehicle earned an estimated $27 million to trump 20th Century Fox’s dragon tale, Eragon, and Paramount’s live-action/CG adaptation of E.B. White’s classic children’s book, Charlotte’s Web.

Theater attendance was fairly week this frame with moviegoers apparently saving their entertainment dollars for the holiday weekend. Still, Eragon managed a respectable $23.4 million (est.) despite some brutal reviews, many knocking the story for borrowing too much from Star Wars. The pic benefited from a built-in audience of fans of Christopher Paolini’s book series, while others were no doubt intrigued by the visual effects and CG animation by ILM, Weta Digital, Fox Studios, Furious FX, Caf’FX, Cinesite and Svengali FX.Having dumped a reported $100 million into the film, Fox was clearly hoping for a franchise tentpole, but ticket sales would have to improve greatly over the next week to warrant a sequel.

Similarly, Paramount’s $85 million investment in Charlotte’s Web failed to pay off in its debut weekend as the film took in around $12 million. However, the family flick has been garnering good reviews that should help business pick up considerably as kids get out of school for the winter holiday. This one also has familiarity on its side, since most adults and children have been touched by White’s classic tale, which has been brought to the screen this time with help from vfx studios Tippett Studio, Rhythm & Hues, Stan Winston Studios, Rising Sun Pictures, Digital Dimension, Fuel, Digital Pictures Lloura, Proof Inc. and Sandman Studios.

Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s animated Happy Feet is still very much alive at the box office. In its fifth week, the toon earned an estimated $8.5 million to come in fourth. To date, it has earned approximately $150 million in North America and has picked up an additional $60 million overseas thus far. Rounding out the weekend’s top five is Sony’s romantic comedy The Holiday, which boasts expensive stars Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Jack Black, but has only grossed around $25 million in two weeks.