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First look: 'Wild Things' starts well, doesn't play like family film

October 18, 2009 |  8:53 am

WildThings "Where the Wild Things Are" opened to a solid if not exceptional $32.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, but played very much like an adult-themed movie despite its origins in children's literature.

The adaptation of Maurice Sendak's book saw ticket sales rise only 2% from Friday to Saturday. Most movies that play to family audiences experience a significant boost on Saturday as parents with children attend matinees. Many box-office watchers had predicted that "Wild Things," with its PG rating, would do just that and end up grossing close to $40 million for the weekend after it grossed more than $12 million on Friday.

Nonetheless, $32.5 million is a good start given the movie's budget of about $100 million, which was brought down to $80 million through foreign tax incentives. If "Wild Things" continues to play well, it could end up a solid performer for distributor Warner Bros., which paid for 25% of the film, and its co-financiers Village Roadshow Entertainment, which paid for half, and Legendary Entertainment.

Movies that play to adults tend to fade faster than family films, however, giving all three companies some cause for concern.

Beyond No. 1, it was a surprisingly robust weekend with no major flops.

The thriller "Law Abiding Citizen," which Overture Films distributed for the Film Department, grossed a strong $21.3 million. That's a bit above what pre-release audience polling had indicated and a good launch for a movie that cost $50 million to produce.

"Paranormal Activity" continued to play exceptionally well, nearly landing at No. 2 despite showing at fewer than one-third as many locations as "Citizen." It grossed $20.2 million, according to Paramount, giving it a phenomenal average of $26,530 at each of its 760 theaters. After four weeks, two of which it played only midnight shows in a few cities, the ultra-low-budget horror flick has collected $33.7 million. This Friday it will expand to over 1,800 locations nationwide.

Despite the competition from "Paranormal," Sony's low-budget horror movie "Stepfather" had a decent opening of $12.3 million, above expectations going into the weekend. The film cost a little under $20 million to produce.

Last weekend's No. 1 film, "Couples Retreat," dropped 48% to $17.9 million, an average decline for a romantic comedy. Its total gross is a healthy $63.3 million domestically, and it has brought in $10.8 million from five foreign territories.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Max Records in "Where the Wild Things Are." Credit: Matt Nettheim / Warner Bros. Pictures