First look: ‘Princess and the Frog,’ ‘Invictus’ off to so-so starts

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This frog’s going to need legs.

Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog’ opened to $25 million, a relatively soft start that’s in line with the last two releases by its Burbank-based animation studio, ‘Bolt’ and ‘Meet the Robinsons,’ which were financial disappointments.

However, by opening ‘Princess’ in the first half of December, typically a slow time for moviegoing, Disney is aiming to set up its first hand-drawn animated feature in six years to have ‘legs,’ an industry term for slowly declining ticket sales, through the holidays. In that regard, the picture’s average audience grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, is a good sign about word of mouth, which will be crucial to its ultimate performance.

Disney is undoubtedly hoping the movie will play like its early November release, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ which has recovered from a soft opening of $30.1 million to accumulate $124.5 million and counting. This weekend the 3-D holiday tale’s ticket sales declined only 12%.

Warner Bros.’ ‘Invictus’ got off to a similarly unimpressive start, collecting $9 million for the weekend. But the South African historical drama, which stars Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, is also being positioned to benefit from strong word of mouth in the coming weeks, along with likely awards recognition starting with the Golden Globe nominations Tuesday.


The movie cost Warner and its financing partner Spyglass Entertainment about $60 million to produce.

‘The Blind Side’ continued its fantastic run on a relatively slow box-office weekend, declining only 23% and coming in second place with $15.5 million. Total domestic sales to date for the inspirational drama, which Alcon Entertainment produced for $35 million, are $150.2 million.

Paramount opened ‘The Lovely Bones,’ directed by Peter Jackson and based on the bestselling book, to $116,000 at three theaters in Los Angeles and New York. Its per-theater average of less than $39,000 is a modest start for a movie in limited release with hopes of generating strong buzz and awards recognition. It was undoubtedly hurt by mostly negative reviews. Paramount paid $65 million to produce the movie, which will be released nationwide in January.

Weinstein Co. didn’t generate big business for its new limited-release drama ‘A Single Man,’ despite much stronger reviews than for ‘Bones.’ It grossed $216,000, with an average of $24,000 per theater.

However, ‘Up in the Air’ continues to play very well as Paramount expanded it from 15 to 72 theaters and collected a solid $2.5 million. Its total box office after two weekends is just over $4 million.

-- Ben Fritz