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'Wreck-It Ralph,' 'Flight' open strong despite storm

November 04, 2012|By Ben Fritz
  • The heroes of "Wreck It Ralph."
The heroes of "Wreck It Ralph." (Disney )

"Wreck-It Ralph" smashed his way to the top of the box office and 'Flight' had a solid take-off as the aftermath of super storm Sandy turned out to have no apparent impact on the box office this weekend.

"Wreck-It," a family animated comedy about a video game villain looking for redemption in an arcade, opened to a solid $49.1 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios, while Paramount Pictures' Denzel Washington drama "Flight" soared to a healthy $25 million. Universal Pictures' martial arts movie "The Man with the Iron Fists" opened to a modest $8.2 million, in line with the studio's expectations for the low-budget production directed by hip-hop star RZA.

Studio executives seemed unsure of the exact number of theaters shuttered this weekend by the storm, with estimates ranging from 15 to 50, most in New York and New Jersey. Most importantly for Hollywood, the executives said that ticket sales in states effected by Sandy were not less than normal and that in some cases theaters that were open near closed ones did better than expected, appearing to make up for any losses from shuttered screens.

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The opening of "Ralph," which received very positive reviews, was virtually identical to the first weekend of 2010's "Tangled," the last release from Disney Animation Studios. (Tangled opened the day before Thanksgiving, however, and grossed $68.7 million over five days.) Audiences gave the picture an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, indicating it should play very well in the weeks to come.

That's necessary for the costly animated movie to turn into a hit for Disney.

"Wreck-It Ralph" may have actually benefitted from the weather on the East Coast, as matinees on Friday were particularly strong due to some schools being closed, Disney executive vice president of distribution Dave Hollis said.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Sandy

Ticket sales were strong even at late-night shows, he added, a sign that adults with a fondness for classic game characters who appear in the movie, like "Street Fighters'" Zangief and Pac-Man ghost Clyde, turned out even if they don't have kids. But 68% of ticket sales were to families, according to exit polls.

"Flight," meanwhile, drew an overwhelmingly adult audience, with 89% of ticket buyers over 25. Drawn by positive reviews, Washington, and director Robert Zemeckis' return to live-action drama after more than a decade in motion-capture animation, they gave it an average CinemaScore of A-.

The opening was slightly better than that of the recent hit "Argo," another drama that appeals to adults. It started with $19.5 million and fueled by strong word of mouth, is up to $75.9 million on its fourth weekend.

Paramount Pictures spent $31 million to make "Flight," which should hold up well at least through Thanksgiving.

Moviegoers did not seem as pleased with "The Man with the Iron Fists," as the mostly male audience who turned out gave it a weak CinemaScore of just C+. Still, Universal spent only $15 million to make the movie, which carried a "Quentin Tarantino presents" tag, and declared itself satisfied with the opening.

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