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Season Opens on Top

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Season Opens on Top

Sony Animation’s Open Season clawed up an estimated $23 million over the weekend, easily claiming the top spot at the North American box office. The CG-animated comedy, which is also screening in IMAX 3D, put a hurtin’ on last week’s champ, Paramount’s Jackass: Number Two, as well as fellow newcomers The Guardian from Disney and School for Scoundrels from MGM and The Weinstein Co.

Directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi, Open Season is the first release for Sony Animation, which also debuted the trailer for its next toon feature, Surf’s Up! Featuring the voices of Shia LeBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zoey Deschanel and James Woods, the penguin surfing mocumentary is slated to open next summer. You can watche the trailer online at www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/surfsup.

Commenting on the box office win for Open Season, Culton tells us, ‘It feels fantastic. After all your hard work you hope to reach a family audience, but to see that a lot of people wanted to go to your movie is fantastic!’

Though Open Season marks her directorial debut, Cutlon has been working in the animation industry for around 16 years. She spent nearly eight years as an animator at Pixar before working with Industrial Light & Magic as they considered launching a feature animation division. She was then snagged by Sony and teamed with Allers and Stacchi. Allers directed the Disney classic The Lion King with Rob Minkoff, but had never done a CG feature. ‘That was kind of a good balance between us because my whole career had been in computer animation,’ says Culton. ‘The art of making these films is kind of like the art of stained-glass window making’it’s really meticulous and the craft is passed down from person to person. It’s really difficult to direct one of these if you haven’t seen the whole process, been part of the process or been an animator or story person because it’s difficult to direct others to do things you yourself haven’t done.’

Culton is set to direct another animated feature for Sony but isn’t offering up any details on that project just yet. Watch the Animated People feature on this site for more comments from her on Open Season and her experiences in the industry in general.

It was a good weekend for Ashton Kutcher, who has starring roles in the top two box office performers. In addition to lending his voice to one of the main characters in Open Season, he shares the screen with Kevin Costner in The Guardian, a Coast Guard drama featuring vfx by Furious FX, Flash Film Works, Digital Dream and Pixel Magic. The film earned and estimated $17.6 million, pusing Jackass: Number Two to third place with around $14 million.

Opening at No. 4, the Jon Heder/Billy Bob Thornton comedy School for Scoundrels earned a disappointing $9 million, according to estimates. Meanwhile, the martial arts actioner Jet Li’s Fearless took an even steeper dive than Jackass, slipping from No. 2 to No. 5 with just $4.7 million in its sophomore week.

Director Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, which features a good deal of stop-motion animation effects work, is climbing up the chart since Warner Independent gave it a wider reach over the weekend. After pulling impressive numbers in a handful of theaters last weekend, the film picked up around 200 more screen and earned an estimated $1.2, bringing its total to around $1.71 million.

Miramax’s animated sci-fi noir thriller, Renaissance, also got into a few more theaters, increasing its performance by around 57%. Still, the $18 million CG feature has only earned approximately $33,800 in eight venues. Animated by Attitude Studio, the film is a co-production of Onyx Films, Millimages, Luxanimation, Timefirm Ltd. and France 2 Cinema.

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