Shark Tale Makes Out Swimmingly

It was another big weekend for animation at the box office as DreamWorks’ Shark Tale chewed up the competition and reeled in a whopping $49 million, according to estimates. Buoyed by A-list star power, the 3D toon managed the kind of boffo opening that hasn’t been seen over the past few lackluster weeks.

Directed by Shrek helmer Vicky Jensen, animator Bibo Bergeron (The Adventures of Pinocchio, A Goofy Movie) and writer Rob Letterman, Shark Tale evokes classic mob movies to tell the story of a fish named Oscar (Will Smith), who finds himself in deep water when he takes credit for killing the son of shark mafia boss Don Lino (Robert De Niro). The cast also includes Oscar winners Renée Zellweger and Angelina Joile, hot property Jack Black, director Martin Scorsese, TV icon Peter Falk and Sopranos stars Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore.

Shark Tale opened slightly better than the first Shrek, but swam in the shallow end compared to Shrek 2, which surpassed $100 million in its first week. The latest DreamWorks release also missed the high water mark set by the $70 million debut of Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo.

Buena Vista’s Ladder 49 was also a hot ticket over the weekend, opening to $22.7 million, a respectable take for a post-summer action/drama with ample effects work. Vfx studios Illusion Arts, Pacific Title Digital and Pixel Magic helped bring the heat to the firefighter story starring John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix, Jacinda Barrett, Morris Chestnut, Jay Hernandez and Robert Patrick.

Sony/Revolution Studios’ supernatural thriller, The Forgotten, earned another $12 million and dropped to No. 3 in week two. The modestly budgeted head trip has nearly recouped production costs with a cume of $38 million. The same can’t be said for Paramount’s $70 million CG/live-action hybrid, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which continues to lose altitude at a rapid pace. The film slipped another 50% in week three, earning just $3.3 million to raise its total to $30.6 million.

Buena Vista’s Bernie Mac baseball comedy, Mr. 3,000, rounds out the top five with $2.6 million in its third weekend at bat, but it was the No. 6 film that got the best base hit. Director Michael Schultz’s prison drama, Woman Thou Art Loosed, opened in just over 400 theaters but managed to pull in $2.5 million. The film is an adaptation of Bishop T.D. Jakes’ novel chronicling a woman’s struggle to come to terms with a legacy of abuse, addiction and poverty. Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine and Debbi Morgan star.