Valiant Grounded, Virgin Scores

Disney’s CG-animated Valiant flew largely under the radar during its maiden North American voyage, debuting at No. 7 with a box office take of just over $6 million. Produced on a modest budget by Vanguard Animation in the U.K., the toon feature was bested by Warner Independent’s real-life bird adventure, March of the Penguins. The documentary earned an estimated $6.7 million over the weekend, bringing its nine-week total to around $48.6 million.

Valiant is the first directorial effort for character designer Gary Chapman, who had expert support from Shrek producer John H. Williams, a co-founder of Vanguard. The film is also the first 3D Disney release animated outside of Pixar. In addition, Valiant has earned the dubious distinction of being the weakest computer-animated box-office contender to date. This is partly due to a relatively low theater count, but even Artisan’s 2002 release of Big Idea’s Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie opened slightly better in just 940 locations, fewer than half the venues showing Valiant.

Ewan McGregor (The Island, Star Wars Episodes I-III) voices the lead role in Valiant, the story of a lowly wood pigeon who overcomes his small size to become a hero in Great Britain’s Royal Air Force Homing Pigeon Service during the Second World War. The film’s cast also includes Sir Ben Kingsley, Rupert Everett, John Hurt, Hugh Laurie and Ricky Gervais.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin was the top draw at the box office this week, seducing audiences to the tune of $20 million. Moviegoers chose comedy over thrills and chills, making DreamWorks’ Wes Craven-directed nail biter, Red Eye, No. 2 with $16.5 million. Four Brothers dropped to third with $13 million, while Wedding Crashers and Skeleton Key round out the top five with $8.2 million and $7.4 million respectively.