Moviegoers Eat Up Ratatouille

Next to popcorn, Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille was the top menu item at theaters across North America over the weekend. The CG-animated rat tale cooked up an estimated $47.2 million at the box office to beat a surprisingly strong performance by 20th Century Fox’s Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth installment in a franchise many thought was past its prime. The $100 million Bruce Willis action vehicle opened on Wednesday and has earned around $48 million so far.

Despite finishing in the top spot, Ratatouille proved a bit of a disappointment for the hit machine that is Pixar Animation Studios. The film received rave reviews virtually across the board but failed to match the $60 million opening of the toon shop’s last feature, Cars. Then again, Ratatouille opened in a fairly tough spot, amidst a sea of big-budget summer sequels and vfx-heavy event films. The pic’s gross should get a boost this week with help from the Independence Day crowd, thought it has to compete with DreamWorks/Paramount’s Transformers on Tuesday.

Universal’s Evan Almighty added approximately $15 million to bring its two-week gross to about $60.6 million, which is not exactly a deluge of cash flow considering the pic’s reported budget of more than $175 million. On the opposite side of the coin is MGM/The Weinstein Co.’s surprise hit 1408, a $25 million chiller that has raked in north of $40 million in two weeks. The Stephen King adaptation sits at No. 4 with a weekend draw fo about $10.6 million.

Finishing the box office top five is Fox’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The superhero sequel earned approximately $9 million during the pre-holiday frame to jack its domestic total to nearly $115 million. Worldwide gross for the effects extravaganza now stands at roughly $174 million.

Like most animated features, Ratatouille should have a long shelf life in theaters before making a bundle on home video. DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek the Third, which opened seven weeks ago, is still the overseas box office king, taking in $65 million in 50 territories this last round to bring its worldwide cume to around $574 million.

The forecast looks good for director Michael Bay’s Transformers. The CG-laden action flick opened in ten territories overseas over the weekend and managed an estimated $37.4 million. The eagerly awaited live-action take on the classic cartoon series and toy line bows in North American theaters on Tuesday to get a jump on the holiday. Industrial Light & Magic handled the majority of the digital animation for the movie, which has been getting good notices.