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Audiences love 'Princess and the Frog,' 'Invictus,' but will they keep going?

December 13, 2009 | 11:41 am

Invictus Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. have established that moviegoers dig their new movies "The Princess and the Frog" and "Invictus." But as a holiday season crowded with highly anticipated movies approaches, the question is whether they can both keep playing.

Disney's first hand-drawn animated feature in six years garnered an average audience grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, while Warners' apartheid story received an A-. Neither movie had particularly strong ticket sales on their opening weekends, however. The big-budget "Princess" launched to a studio-estimated $25 million from Friday through Sunday. Historical drama "Invictus," which cost $60 million to produce, opened to just $9.1 million.

The last two non-Pixar animated features from Disney, "Bolt," and "Meet the Robinsons," opened to $26 million and $25 million, respectively, and were ultimately considered financial disappointments. "Invictus," meanwhile, started significantly below the $29.5-million wide-release debut of the last movie directed by Clint Eastwood, "Gran Torino," a major hit, and closer to that of his 2007 flop "Changeling," which launched to $9.4 million and ended up with just $35.7 million.

Weekends in the first half of December are traditionally slow, and the two studios were both hoping this weekend would essentially serve as a setup to generate momentum and word-of-mouth going into the holiday season, when many children and adults will be off work and out of school.

The competition for moviegoers will be fierce, however, as Fox's hugely hyped "Avatar," the first movie from "Titanic" director James Cameron in 12 years, debuts Friday, along with the romantic comedy "What About the Morgans?" The next week, on Christmas Day, "Sherlock Holmes," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" and romantic comedy "It's Complicated" all open with big expectations.

Frog For "The Princess and the Frog" and "Invictus" to succeed, they will have to find audiences amid a very crowded marketplace. "Princess," whose opening-weekend audience was 80% families, will be competing for that same crowd with "Alvin and the Chipmunks." "Invictus," meanwhile, faces a number of new pictures aimed at its mostly adult crowd -- which was 69% over 30 this weekend -- as well as several in limited release that will be expanding further, such as "Up in the Air" and "Precious."

For more on the performance of "Up in the Air," "The Lovely Bones," and "A Serious Man" in limited release, as well as the continued phenomenal run of "The Blind Side," see our initial box-office post.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "The Princess and the Frog" (Disney): $25 million as it opened in wide release. Total: $27.9 million  including its previous two-week run at two theaters.

2. "The Blind Side" (Warner Bros./Alcon): Declined just 23% on its fourth weekend to $15.5 million. Domestic total: $150.2 million.

3. "Invictus" (Warner Bros./Spyglass): $9.1-million debut.

4. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (Summit): Fell 48% on its fourth weekend to $8 million. $267.4 million domestic total. International total: $358.7 million.

5. "A Christmas Carol" (Disney): Off only 12% on its sixth weekend at $6.9 million. Total U.S. and Canadian ticket sales: $124.5 million.

6. "Brothers" (Lionsgate/Relativity): $5 million, down 49% on its second weekend. Total: $17.4 million.

7. "2012" (Sony): Dropped 35% on its fifth weekend to $4.4 million. Domestic total: $155.3 million. International: $556 million.

8. "Old Dogs" (Disney): $4.4 million, off 36% on its third weekend. Domestic total: $40 million so far.

9. "Armored" (Sony): $3.5 million, down 46% on its second weekend. U.S. and Canadian total: $11.7 million.

10. "Ninja Assassin" (Warner Bros./Dark Castle/Legendary): Down 46% on its third weekend to $2.7 million. Domestic total: $34.3 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in "Invictus." Credit: Keith Bernstein / Warner Bros.
Bottom photo: "The Princess and the Frog." Credit: Walt Disney Studios

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