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`Cars' Still Outpacing Competitors

With a projected take of $31.2 million, the Pixar animated movie leads the box office for a second weekend. `Nacho Libre' opens at No. 2.

June 19, 2006|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

Walt Disney Co.'s "Cars" had plenty of gas in its second weekend, leading the box office with an estimated $31.2 million in the U.S. and Canada despite tough new competition.

Two movies aimed squarely at young males provided the strongest challenges, as the Jack Black wrestling comedy "Nacho Libre" outmuscled "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" for second place.

Paramount Pictures' "Nacho Libre" took in an estimated $27.5 million, versus $24.1 million for Universal Pictures' latest installment of the street-racing franchise "The Fast and the Furious."

Two other widely released new films, "The Lake House" and "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties," generated modest business.

"Cars," which has grossed $114.5 million in a week and a half, is the seventh straight hit from Pixar, the animation studio Disney acquired this spring.

"The audience has made its choice: We're the family film of the summer," said Chuck Viane, Disney's distribution chief.

Still, "Cars" opened with only the fourth-highest gross for a Pixar film, disappointing some analysts, and in its second weekend it dropped more dramatically than the studio's two previous hits, declining 48%.

"Finding Nemo," Pixar's biggest blockbuster, slipped 34% after its premiere in 2003, and "The Incredibles" fell 29% in 2004.

Viane blamed two factors: the quartet of new releases vying for attention and the increasing proportion of opening-weekend ticket sales industrywide. He said "Cars" played well throughout the week and should benefit as more schools let out for the summer.

"Nacho Libre" averaged $8,962 per theater at 3,070 venues, validating Paramount's strategy of delaying its release by two weeks. The offbeat comedy had been slated for release June 2, but the studio steered clear of the second weekend for "X-Men: The Last Stand," which also targeted male teenagers.

"Nacho Libre" is the second film from director Jared Hess, who scored a sleeper hit two years ago with his debut, "Napoleon Dynamite."

Rob Moore, Paramount's worldwide marketing and distribution chief, said "Nacho Libre" cost a relatively paltry $35 million to produce and would be "extremely profitable."

"The movie felt fresh and different and played to a much more balanced audience than people thought," Moore said.

Exit surveys showed 53% of ticket buyers were male and 55% were younger than 25, he said.

"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" drew a crowd that was 58% male and 60% under 25, according to Universal's polling.

The third chapter in the series from producer Neal H. Moritz opened far below the first two films, which went on to become smash hits.

Universal's distribution chief, Nikki Rocco, said she was happy with the opening, however, noting that the latest film features a no-name cast.

" 'Nacho' has a superstar in Jack Black," she said. "Our movie has no stars -- the cars are the stars."

She also pointed to the movie's rating of A-minus in audience surveys by CinemaScore.

The score, a notch above the B-plus given to "Nacho Libre," bodes well for the movie's word of mouth in the coming weeks, Rocco said.

Even Warner Bros., whose romantic drama "The Lake House" opened at $13.7 million, and 20th Century Fox, whose "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" premiered with $7.2 million, tried to put a positive spin on their results.

Dan Fellman, distribution chief at Warner Bros., said films like "The Lake House" that appeal to older women often show stamina at the box office.

"The Notebook" opened at $13.5 million in June 2004, for example, and went on to gross $81 million, he noted. That film got stronger reviews, however.

The "Garfield" sequel opened with only one-third the gross of the original animated film from two years ago.

Bert Livingston, general sales manager at 20th Century Fox, said the original movie faced little competition for the preteen crowd, whereas "Cars" and "Over the Hedge" are attracting tykes this summer.

As with the first "Garfield" film, which ultimately grossed $74 million in the U.S. and Canada and $123 million elsewhere, the follow-up is expected to do well in foreign markets, Livingston said. The lasagna-scarfing cat is off to a promising start in Brazil, Singapore and the Philippines, he said.

Industrywide, box-office revenue in the U.S. and Canada has risen 4.5% from last year, thanks partly to higher ticket prices, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Attendance is up 1.4% year to date.

For the first seven weeks of Hollywood's extended summer season, grosses are up 0.2% but attendance is down 2.8%. The season's next key release comes Friday, when Sony Pictures' comedy "Click," starring Adam Sandler, opens at more than 3,500 theaters.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Box office

Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Cars $31.2 $114.5

Nacho Libre 27.5 27.5

The Fast/Furious:Tokyo Drift 24.1 24.1

The Lake House 13.7 13.7

The Break-Up 9.5 91.9

Garfield:Tail/Two Kitties 7.2 7.2

X-Men:/ Last Stand 7.2 215.5

The Omen 5.4 46.9

The Da Vinci Code 5.0 198.5

Over the Hedge 4.0 138.8

*--*

Industry total

*--* 3-day gross Change (in millions) from 2005

$146.0 +7.6%

YTD gross Change (in billions) from 2005

$4.1 +4.5%

*--*

Source: Exhibitor Relations Co.

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