Draco Malfoy and the slimy kids of Slytherin couldn't have wreaked more damage for Harry Potter than a bunch of commando guinea pigs did for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince this weekend. G-Force, the live-action and CGI action comedy, earned $32.2 million at the North American box office, besting the $30 million take of the sixth Potter film, according to the usual movie-studio estimates of the weekend. Final numbers are posted on Monday.
G-Force was one more win for über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, supreme entrepreneur of movie pirates and car-crash films and a slew of chalk-outline TV hits. His notion of The Dirty Dozen for rodents corralled the kid audience, luring it from a first or second look at the latest Hogwarts adventure. Half-Blood dropped a precipitous 61% from its opening Friday-to-Sunday engagement, as if the vast army of Harryphiles had belatedly discovered that the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher was Brüno.
Top finisher among films with nonwizard human beings was The Ugly Truth, the R-rated Katherine HeiglGerard Butler romantic comedy that survived libelous reviews to earn a perky $27 million. If the figures hold through the next few weeks, Heigl will have joined Sandra Bullock (whose The Proposal has crossed the $140 million mark at the domestic box office) as the rare female star who can deliver large crowds to really crappy movies. Finishing the weekend just behind The Ugly Truth, but with less than half its take, was the adopted-child horror film The Orphan.
Cruising along were Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, in fifth and sixth place, respectively. The rampaging-bots movie has earned $379.1 million thus far in North America, more than twice what the woolly cartoon has amassed. However, Ice Age 3 is mammoth abroad, taking in nearly half a billion dollars and outgrossing Transformers 2 (though it opened a week later).
The G-Force ads read, "Gadgets, Gizmos, Guinea Pigs. In 3-D." The difference between the top two films may have been the surcharge audiences pay to see a movie while wearing goggles. G-Force played in 1,600 IMAX theaters, while Half-Blood played in just three (by the time Warner Bros. pushed back the Potter release date from last November to midsummer, nearly all the IMAX venues had been reserved for Transformers 2 and Ice Age 3). Potter's IMAX number increases to 164 on July 29, and with many fans likely to return for the full-screen experience, you can expect a much more modest drop next week.
In indie rom-com business, the sentimentally schadenfreude (500) Days of Summer expanded to 85 theaters and finished 11th with $1.6 million and a passionate $19,000 per-screen average; Woody Allen's alterkocker altercation Whatever Works pushed over the $4 million mark in its sixth week; the smug-alert road movie Away We Go inched near $9 million in its eighth week; and the Jeff Daniels crabby-guru valentine The Answer Man was DOA, opening to a lame $13,000 on six screens. As for the two critically acclaimed but otherwise very different Iraq-related movies, The Hurt Locker has hit $4 million in five weeks of limited release, and the new In the Loop, a salubriously savage comedy about the Anglo-American ramp-up to the war, cadged a shock-and-awe $200,000 at just eight theaters.
The weekend boasted no new fanboy action adventure, perhaps because a substantial portion of the young male audience was either attending or reading blogs about Comic-Con, the annual San Diego convention that began as a comix meet-and-greet show and, in the past few years, has undergone the same kind of Hollywood invasion that the Sundance Film Festival did in the mid-'90s. James Cameron showed clips from Avatar, due to open in December. Rings-master Peter Jackson was there, as were Pixar's John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki, the 2-D animation Yoda whose Ponyo opens next month. For the nerd-world gang, that was like Brad and Angelina dropping by for dinner. When Comic-Con is in session, what plugged-in dweeb needs to go to the movies?
Here are the studios' official weekend estimates for the top 10 movies, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. G-Force, $32.1 million, first weekend
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, $30 million; $221.8 million, second week
3. The Ugly Truth, $27 million, first weekend
4. The Orphan, $12.7 million, first weekend
5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, $8.2 million; $171.3 million, fourth week
6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, $8 million; $379.1 million, fifth week
7. The Hangover, $6.5 million; $247.1 million, eighth week
8. The Proposal, $6.4 million; $140.1 million, sixth week
9. Public Enemies, $4.2 million; $88.1 million, fourth week
10. Brüno, $2.7 million; $56.5 million, third week