Pooh Potent, Hitch Huge

According to weekend box office estimates, Disney scored a top-five finish with Pooh’s Heffalump Movie from DisneyToon Studios, the last bastion of 2D animation at the Mouse House. The film came in at No. 5 with around $6 million, which is not a bad haul for a $20 million movie. This latest venture into the Hundred Acre Woods has been receiving good reviews and should have strong legs through word-of-mouth.

Directed by Frank Nissen (Man the Polluter), Pooh’s Heffalump Movie has young marsupial Roo strike up a friendship with a Lumpy, an imaginary creature known as a Heffalump. The friendship is tested when Pooh, Tigger and the rest of the gang venture into Heffalump territory hoping to capture what they think is a fearsome nuisance. The family pic is based on the classic characters created by A.A. Milne.

Legal issues aside, the Winnie the Pooh property has been a huge asset for Disney. However, the last two films in the franchise haven’t matched the success of The Tigger Movie, which opened in February of 2001 to $9.4 million on its way to $96 million worldwide. Piglet’s Big Movie followed in March of 2003 with a $6 million opening weekend and a worldwide take of nearly $63 million.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the production of Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, see our cover story in the February issue of Animation Magazine, now available by subscription and at Barnes & Noble booksellers.

The weekend clearly belonged to Sony’s Will Smith comedy, Hitch, which raked in an estimated $45.3 million. Perfectly timed with Valentine’s Day, the film has Smith playing a smooth-talking relationship expert who loses his touch when he finds himself struck by cupid’s arrow. Kevin James (TV’s King of Queens) co-stars.

In spite of the romantic holiday, horror still had its fangs in many moviegoers. Sony ScreenGems’ Boogeyman slipped to No. 2 with nearly $11 million. The chiller, produced by Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 director Sam Raimi, features visual effects by Weta Digital and Oktobor under vfx supervisor Brent Gilmartin. Made for a reported $20 million, the movie has made around $33 million in just two weeks.

Pooh didn’t manage to steal enough family business away from Sony’s Are We There Yet? The Ice Cube comic vehicle hangs tough at No. 3 with an estimated $8.5 million for the weekend and a cume of just over $61 million. Warner Bros.’ Million Dollar Baby completes the top five at No. 4. With a host of Oscar nominations including Best Actress (Hillary Swank), Best Actor (Clint Eastwood), Best Director (Clint Eastwood) and Best Picture, the boxing film managed an estimated $7.5 million in its ninth week in the ring.

Another fighting success story is Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior from Magnolia films. The martial arts flick, which advertises that no special effects were used in its amazing, acrobatic fight sequences, earned an impressive $1.3 million in just 387 theaters in North America. The film has been a big hit overseas and should expand into more U.S. venues following its successful bow.