Polar Express Steams Past $100 Million

While The Disney and Pixar camps celebrate their Golden Globes nomination for The Incredibles, the folks at Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Imageworks can take solace in the fact that their big-budget CG holiday pic, The Polar Express, is the top toon at the box office. As The Incredibles and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie continue to slide down the charts, Express scored a fourth-place finish in its fifth week out, bringing in an estimated $9.7 million over the weekend to drive its cume to around $110 million.

While it still has a long way to go to catch up with The Incredibles’ $232 million domestic draw, The Polar Express is showing staying power as the winter holiday approaches. With a reported budget of $170 million, the film was all but written off as an expensive flop with its disappointing debut. Now it’s looking like it will at least break even domestically and pull in a tidy profit with foreign distribution and future home video sales.

One advantage The Polar Express has over other toons in release is its IMAX 3D version, which has been packing in audiences with the lure of stereoscopic 3D computer-generated images and immersive surround sound.

Though it’s not hauling eight zeroes like its animated competitors, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie from Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount Pictures has more than doubled its $30 million production budget. At $73.5 million, the 2D film has thus far proven way more profitable than Express, and still stands to make a bundle on video.

The sequel Oceans’ Twelve from Warner Bros. and director Steven Soderberg easily claimed the top spot this weekend with a whopping $40.8 million. The follow-up outdid its predecessor, which opened in December of 2001 to $38 million on its way to $450 million worldwide. While the critics have been split on the sequel, fans obviously couldn’t resist the star power of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac and the rest of the talented cast.

Coming in at No. 2 is the vampire actioner Blade: Trinity with an estimated $16 million. In addition to stars Wesley Snipes and Jessica Biel, the third installment in the series offers fans some blood-chilling visual effects by Giant Killer Robots, CafeFX, Digital Dimension and Pixel Magic.

After three consecutive weeks at the top, Buena Vista’s action/adventure thriller, National Treasure, drops to No. 3 with just under $10 million and Sony/Revolution Studios’ Yule Tide comedy, Christmas with the Kranks, finishes out the top five with around $7.6 million.

Go behind the scenes with the CG wizards at Sony Pictures Imageworks with our cover story on the making of The Polar Express in the January issue of Animation Magazine, now available. Look for it at Barnes & Noble bookstores.