Two high-profile films gaining Oscar buzz for the performances of their leading men opened in limited release. Out writer-director Bill Condon's Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson as noted sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, grossed $175,000 from five theaters in New York and Los Angeles. It was released by Fox Searchlight, a unit of News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group. Finding Neverland, starring Johnny Depp as Scottish Peter Pan playwright James Barrie, earned $240,000 from eight theaters in the top two cities and garnered the best exit polls in distributor Miramax Films' history, a spokesman for the Disney-owned studio said.
In the battle of computer-animated cartoons, The Incredibles held on to the top slot at the weekend box office in North America, while the costly Tom Hanks holiday movie The Polar Express pulled in at a distant number 2, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday. The Incredibles, revolving around a family of superheroes, sold about $51 million worth of tickets in the three days beginning Friday, said a spokesman for Walt Disney Co., which released the Pixar Animation Studios production. Its 10-day total soared to $144.1 million, which is how much Pixar's previous effort, Finding Nemo, made at the same time in its release cycle last summer. That film ended up with $340 million. Disney distribution president Chuck Viane was confident the new film would reach that level, helped by a paucity of family movies in theaters.
The Polar Express, which reportedly cost $270 million to make and market, opened with a modest $23.5 million for the weekend, distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said. Since its release on Wednesday, it has earned $30.8 million. "We're very pleased with the five-day result," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic theatrical distribution at the Time Warner-owned studio. "It's a real holiday movie, and everyone who sees it loves it." Some reviewers were not as enthusiastic, with The Wall Street Journal calling it "a train wreck of mind-numbing proportions." However, influential Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert said it "has the quality of a lot of lasting children's entertainment." Based on a children's book about a skeptical youngster's journey to meet Santa Claus, the film stars a computer-animated version of Hanks as a train conductor. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who previously worked with the Oscar-winning actor on Forrest Gump and Cast Away. Warner Bros. is a 50-50 partner on the project with real estate heir Steve Bing, a Democratic fund-raiser famed for initially denying he had fathered actress Elizabeth Hurley's baby until a DNA test proved otherwise. Fellman was confident the movie would be profitable.
New releases rounded out the top five. After the Sunset, a crime caper starring Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek, opened at number 3 with $11.5 million, a little better than industry expectations. The film, directed by Brett Ratner of Rush Hour fame, was released by Time Warner's New Line Cinema unit. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Universal Pictures' sequel to the hit 2001 film about a hapless "singleton" played by Renee Zellweger, grabbed fourth place with $8.9 million. However, the film played in just 530 theaters, while The Incredibles was in 3,933 theaters, Polar Express in 3,650 theaters, and Sunset in 2,819 theaters. Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said the studio opened the film in limited release to help build word of mouth and would expand it to over 2,000 sites next weekend. Not surprisingly, women made up about three quarters of the audience, Universal said. The studio is a unit of NBC Universal, which is controlled by General Electric. Out writer-director Don Mancini's Seed of Chucky, the fifth installment in the camp horror series about a killer doll, opened in fifth place with $8.8 million from 2,059 theaters. Its 1998 predecessor, Bride of Chucky, opened to $11.8 million. The new film was released by Rogue Pictures, the nascent genre arm of Universal's art-house wing Focus Features.