Ice Age: Continental Drift Grounds Spider-Man with $46 Million Weekend Debut

True Blood Season 5 Comic-Con Trailer Drops Some SpoilersFox’s Ice Age: Continental Drift opened to decent but unspectacular numbers as the North American box office took a summer vacation of its own. Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Universal’s Ted both had solid holds as word-of-mouth kept them afloat. Overall, box office business was down a steep 40% from last year at this time when the final Harry Potter film opened to a then-record $169.2 million. The box office should rebound just nicely next weekend when The Dark Knight Rises opens.

Ten years after the original opened to the tune of $46 million (pre-inflation) the fourth in Fox’s popular Ice Age series, Continental Drift, arrived on the scene and basically had the playing field to itself. While the debut of $46 million from 3,881 theaters (2,731 of which were higher-priced 3D screens) was on par with the original and slightly ahead of the opening of 2009’s Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($42 million), it was nowhere near the $68 million earned by 2006’s entry The Meltdown. Given that competition was practically non-existent for the new chapter, hopes were high that the film would open in the mid $50-low $60 million range.

So what caused Continental Drift to open flat? Bad reviews? They were on the negative side (a franchise-low 40% Rotten Tomatoes rating), but poor feedback didn’t hurt the last two installments at the box office. Marketing? Not a chance. Fox got the word out big time that there was a new Ice Age film in theaters, so awareness wasn’t an issue either.

Perhaps then it was simply a matter of bad timing and burnout. Continental Drift is the third 3D animated feature to hit screens in six weeks, so parents are no doubt growing wary of dishing out a ton of money to take the family to the theater. Plus, when you start to get to the fourth or fifth chapter of a popular series be it animated or not, people do tend to get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. Rare is the case that the fourth film in a franchise has anything new or fresh to offer.

While the last installment managed to hang in there throughout the 2009 summer movie season to earn a great $191 million, it also didn’t have a behemoth like The Dark Knight Rises breathing down its neck. Still, ol’ Bats won’t be the first choice for families over the dog days of summer for a trip to the movies, so there is a chance that the new Ice Age will hang tough at the multiplexes. But in the event it does not, Fox can breathe easy thanks to the increasingly dependable foreign market. The overseas market has been nothing short of a godsend for the Ice Age series. The third one alone did 78% of its business in foreign markets. Judging by the $95 million alone this weekend and $339 million overall thus far, history is about to repeat itself.

After opening to a solid but hardly blockbuster numbers, Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man had a solid second week hold, the result of solid word-of-mouth from ticket buyers. Entering his second weekend, Peter Parker grabbed an estimated $35.5 million from 4,318 theaters, a decline of only 43.6%. After 13 days of domestic release, Spider-Man has grabbed a solid $201 million and is looking to finish its run with approximately $275 million. This estimated domestic tally would rank it last money-wise in the Spidey franchise and no doubt would have had a better shot at hitting the $300 million mark had the movie come out a week or two sooner than it did. As with Continental Drift, this movie is looking to make most of its money in overseas markets. To date, the film has earned a big $250 million in foreign sales.

Continuing to hold its own in third place is Universal’s R-rated sleeper hit Ted. The Seth MacFarlane-directed comedy eased only 31% from its holiday weekend earnings to nab an estimated $22.1 million from 3,303 screens. After three weeks, the movie has earned a great $159 million and should easily pass the $200 million mark (if not more) by the end of its run.

Despite taking a hit from Ice Age, Disney/Pixar’s animated hit Brave continued to make money in its fourth weekend. Still hanging around on 3,392 screens while easing 46%, Princess Merida earned an estimated $11 million to bring its total to $195.5 million. The movie should call it a day domestically with $220 million in the bank, roughly the same amount as 2008’s Wall-e (pre-inflation and without the benefit of 3D).

Rounding out the top five was Warner’s low-budget hit Magic Mike. The Steven Soderbergh film eased 42% in its third weekend to earn an estimated $9 million from 3,090 screens. The movie has earned a solid $91.8 million to date and should finish between $105-110 million. A sequel is already in the works.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. Savages (Universal) $8.7 million (-45%) $31.4 million to date.

7. Madea’s Witness Protection (Lionsgate) $5.6 million (-45%) $55.6 million

8. Katy Perry: Part of Me (Paramount) $3.7 million (-48%) $18.6 million

9. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) $3.6 million (-19%) $32.4 million

10. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Dreamworks/Paramount) $3.5 million (-53%) $203.7 million

The wait is over next weekend as Warner opens the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Batman saga The Dark Knight Rises, certain to destroy Ice Age: Continental Drift at the box office.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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