Potter too Magical for Garfield, Riddick

The wizard’s magic proved too potent for newcomers Garfield: The Movie, The Chronicles of Riddick and The Stepford Wives. According to weekend estimates, Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban conjured up another $35 million to bring its cumulative gross to $158 million and hold onto the top spot at the box office in its second weekend.

Universal’s CG-laden sci-fi actioner, The Chronicles of Riddick, managed a second place finish with around $24.6 million. A follow-up to the 2000 sleeper hit, Pitch Black, the Vin Diesel vehicle features out-of-this-world effects by Hatch FX, Double Negative, Rhythm & Hues and New Deal Studios. Still, the film just barely scraped by DreamWorks’ animated sequel, Shrek 2. The Green Ogre’s return engagement took in an estimated $24 million over the weekend, bringing its grand total to around $354 million after just four weeks out of the gate. The continued momentum was even enough to outdo the big-screen debut of another popular animated character.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Garfield scratched up an estimated $21.6 million to post a disappointing fifth place finish behind Paramount’s remake of The Stepford Wives. For his first theatrical release, the traditionally hand-drawn Garfield has been given a 3D makeover by the folks at Rhythm & Hues, the same effects house that recently brought Scooby-Doo to life for Warner Bros.’ duo of box office hits. Acclaimed actor Bill Murray provides the voice of the terrible tabby, who gets jealous when owner Jon (Breckin Meyer) brings home a dog named Odie, but ultimately swallows his pride to save the pup form kidnappers. Read our interview with Garfield creator Jim Davis and visual effects supervisor Dan Deleeuw of Rhythm & Hues in the July issue of Animation Magazine.

The Stepford Wives did slightly better than expected, bringing in around $22.2 million. Nichole Kidman stars in the darkly comic tale of better living through robotics, as retold by puppeteer-turned-director Frank Oz, the voice behind Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cooker Monster and Yoda. Tippett Studio provided the film’s eye-opening effects.

Opening this Wednesday is Buena Vista Pictures’ effects-filled family adventure flick, Around the World in 80 Days. This latest adaptation of the Jules Verne literary classic stars Jackie Chan as a Chinese thief who hooks up with an eccentric Victorian inventor attempting to circumvent the globe in various contraptions. Rhythm & Hues, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Cinesite and Moving Picture Co. are among the vfx shops contributing shots.