North American film fans heard the call of the elephant and stampeded to the box office to see the animated Dr. Seuss pic Horton Hears a Who, which enjoyed the largest opening weekend of the year so far. The testosterone flick Never Back Down launched to decent numbers; however, the virus thriller Doomsday was dead on arrival in its debut. But ‘toon power was able to revitalize the marketplace, sending the top 10 above the $100M mark and ahead of year-ago levels for the first time in a month.

Jim Carrey and Steve Carell lent their voices to Horton and ticket buyers responded, spending an estimated $45.1M on the Fox hit for a strong number one premiere. The G-rated tale bowed ultrawide in 3,954 locations and averaged a sturdy $11,406 per theater. The Whoville story generated the fourth best March opening ever, behind 300 ($70.9M), Ice Age: The Meltdown ($68M), and the original Ice Age ($46.3M) and also landed the fifth largest opening in history for a G-rated film.

Horton took advantage of star power, the popularity of the Seuss brand, and an open marketplace with few options for families to help it post the year’s best debut. But the film went beyond just parents and kids — the studio reports that 47 percent of the audience was non-family, with teens kicking in a significant contribution. Budgeted at $85M, the animated feature also garnered glowing reviews from most critics. Horton also bowed in 29 international markets this weekend, and captured an estimated $14.2M tally.

Animated films opening in March usually enjoy strong legs thanks to the Easter holiday and school vacations. Ice Age‘s opening weekend represented only 26 percent of its eventual $176.4M domestic final. Fox’s 2005 film Robots witnessed a 28 percent share, Meltdown played like a sequel and saw 35 percent, and last year’s Disney offering Meet the Robinsons grabbed 26 percent. Horton should follow in the same footsteps, as direct competition in the coing weeks is not too fierce, leading to possibly $150-175M from North America alone.

Trailing the animated elephant were the woolly mammoths of 10,000 BC. The not-so-accurate account of prehistoric times fell 54 percent in its second outing to an estimated $16.4M and pushed the total to $61.2M after 10 days. Given the bad reviews, negative word-of-mouth and the genre, the sharp decline was expected. The Warner Bros. title is playing almost exactly like another spring historical actioner, 2002’s The Scorpion King. The Rock starrer generated similar numbers with a $36.1M debut and $61.3M 10-day take before concluding with $90.5M. 10,000 BC should find its way to the same vicinity domestically. Overseas, the prehistoric pic collected a mighty $38M this weekend as it saw top spot debuts in the United Kingdom, Korea, and Russia and second place launches in France and Italy. The international cume has risen to $73M putting the global gross at an impressive $134M.

So far this year, moviegoers have been showing up in the same numbers, but have spread their dollars across a wider selection of movies than in 2007. Overall domestic box office is up 4 percent compared to the same period last year, and when factoring in the annual increase in ticket prices, total admissions are up only a slight amount. But at this point in 2007, six films had crossed the $50M mark, including three that broke the $100M barrier; this year, none have reached nine digits yet, but a whopping 10 have vaulted ahead of $50M (not including Horton, which is just days away from surpassing that mark).

The Mixed Martial Arts drama Never Back Down debuted to mediocre results and landed in third place with an estimated $8.6M from a wide 2,729 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,155, the PG-13 high school tale is the first in-house production from new distributor Summit and played to an audience of young males. Research showed that 59 percent of the audience was male and 60 percent were under 21. Never was budgeted at $20M.

Martin Lawrence’s second comedy of the year, College Road Trip, dropped a moderate 42 percent in its second weekend,, grossing an estimated $7.9M. With $24.3M collected in 10 days, the G-rated family flick should end up in the neighborhood of $45M.

Sony’s action thriller Vantage Point has been enjoying surprisingly strong legs, and slipped only 27 percent this week, to an estimated $5.4M for a solid cume of $59.2M. Rival actioner The Bank Job posted an even greater hold, sliding only 17 percent in its sophomore frame to an estimated $4.9M, giving Lionsgate $13.1M in 10 days. The high-octane pics should reach about $75M and $27M, respectively.

Universal suffered a dismal opening for its futuristic virus thriller Doomsday, which bowed to just $4.7M, according to estimates, from 1,936 theaters. The R-rated pic averaged a miserable $2,450 and should find its real audience on DVD this summer.

Will Ferrell‘s basketball comedy Semi-Pro fell 49 percent to eighth with an estimated $3M, pushing the total for New Line to $29.8M. Look for a final of roughly $35M, making it the comedian’s lowest-grossing lead performance in a wide release since 1998’s Night at the Roxbury.

Sony’s The Other Boleyn Girl dipped only 28 percent to an estimated $2.9M for a cume of $19.2M. The kidpic The Spiderwick Chronicles rounded out the top 10 with an estimated $2.4M, off 49 percent, for a $65.4M sum. Final grosses should reach $26M and $70M, respectively.

Warner Independent had a mixed weekend with its pair of limited release titles. The Naomi Watts thriller Funny Games opened in 289 theaters and grossed an estimated $520,000 for a dull $1,800 average. But its promising platform release Snow Angels added one Los Angeles site and took in an estimated $26,000 from three sites for a potent $8,667 average. The Kate Beckinsale starrer expands to the top 10 on Friday during its third session.

Three solid box office performers fell from the top 10 this weekend. Fox’s sci-fi flick Jumper dropped 42 percent to an estimated $2.1M, lifting the total to $75.8M. The $85M Hayden ChristensenSamuel L. Jackson actioner should conclude with about $80M. It’s already banked $100M overseas and counting.

The $70M adventure comedy Fool’s Gold collected an estimated $1.7M, off 38 percent, for a $65.4M sum. Warner Bros. looks to end with just under $70M. Step Up 2 the Streets, the latest teen dance drama to score with audiences, took in an estimated $1.5M, down 51 percent. With $55.4M taken in thus far, the Buena Vista release will reach close to $60M, putting it within striking distance of the $65.3M gross of 2006’s surprise smash Step Up.

The top 10 films grossed an estimated $101.3M, which was up less than 1 percent from last year — when 300 remained at number one in its second weekend with $32.9M — and up 13 percent from 2006, when V for Vendetta debuted in the top spot with $25.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

We all know good movies are hard to make, so you kinda feel bad when so many fail their lofty goals. Such is the case with this week’s "Premonition," which not only scored an 8 percent Tomatometer — it elbowed its way into our 100 Worst Movies of All Time.

The makers of Sandra Bullock’s latest thriller "Premonition" may have thought they were escaping special recognition by releasing it after Rotten Tomatoes’ Worst of the Worst list came out. Thanks to "Premonition’s" outright rankness (a solid 8 percent on the Tomatometer), we’ve welcomed it into that hallowed list, where it’s taking over the 82nd spot.

Critics generally felt sympathy for America’s sweetheart Sandra Bullock, whose earnest acting attempts drew most of the film’s only positive criticism.

But a too-convoluted plot, short-shrifted characters, surprise revelations and a twisty logic that doesn’t seem quite right even when it’s all explained gave most reviewers (88 out of 96) the heebie-jeebies.

With comments like "bring on those Razzie nominations" (Reel.com’s Pam Grady), and "it’s a dour ‘Groundhog Day‘ for desperate housewives" (Newsday’s Gene Seymour), "Premonition" has earned its spot in cinematic immortality.

Also making the updated Worst of the Worst list are the Heath Ledger Vatican thriller "The Order," and "Urban Legend: Final Cut," taking over the 70th and 90th spots, respectively. Dropping out of the list are "A Night at the Roxbury," the 2001 horror flick "Valentine," and (*sigh*) "From Justin to Kelly."

See what else made the Worst of the Worst here.

Author: Nick Hershey

There’s almost a week to go before Asia Argento‘s "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" opens, so it’s perfect timing for The Weinstein Company to announce they’ve optioned the rights to a biopic of fake author J.T. LeRoy.

LeRoy, an HIV-positive boy hustler whose semi-autobiographical short stories and sensational background made him a literary phenom, emerged in the publishing world in 2000, when the popular novel "Sarah" was printed, followed by "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" in 2001. Eventually LeRoy began making public appearances in a wig and sunglasses — an appropriately kooky signature outfit for the eccentric writer, who claimed a history of child abuse, drug use, and prostitution. Media personnel and celebs alike took to LeRoy, leading to Argento‘s screen adaptation, a highly controversial pic studded with enthusiastic stars of young and indie Hollywood.

Although cracks seemed to appear as far back as last year in the LeRoy persona, it wasn’t until the New York Times published an expose last month that the scandal broke wide open. Times writer Warren St. John wrote a series of articles that revealed J.T. LeRoy did not exist; Bay Area writer Laura Albert had dreamed up LeRoy to get publishing attention, and had her then-boyfriend’s sister don the wig and glasses to "play" LeRoy in media appearances all over the world.

Many LeRoy fans were understandably upset at this publishing betrayal; nevertheless, it’s generating quite the buzz for the Palm Pictures release of "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," which opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 10 before expanding to other cities. Click here to see the (redband) trailer.

Directed by Italian actress Asia Argento (Dario‘s daughter, and an accomplished filmmaker in her own right), "Heart" tells the story of a young boy and his troubled, teenage mother as he follows her through the dregs of American society, living through every type of abuse imaginable along the way. The film’s cast evidences the celebrity backers LeRoy had in his/her heyday in 2003, when it was filmed: Asia Argento, Peter Fonda, Michael Pitt, Winona Ryder, Marilyn Manson, Jeremy Renner, Kip Pardue, Jeremy Sisto, and those adorable twins from "Big Daddy," Dylan and Cole Sprouse (now irrevocably damaged at the tender age of 13).

But back to the new news. Per Variety, the flick will be based on writer Warren St. John’s New York Times expose of J.T. LeRoy’s life (or, should we say, fantastically deceitful fake life) and will be helmed by newish director Jesse Peretz, whose credits include 1997’s "First Love, Last Rites," two Foo Fighters videos ("Big Me" and "Learn to Fly"), and who, perhaps most significantly, was the original bass player for the Lemonheads.

Paul Rudd has signed on to play opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in the upcoming Amy Heckerling comedy "I Could Never Be Your Woman," says The Hollywood Reporter.

Also on board are Stacey Dash, Fred Willard, Tracey Ullman, and newcomer Saoirse Ronan.

"The Heckerling-penned movie follows a mother (Pfeiffer) who falls for a younger man (Rudd) while her daughter (Ronan) falls in love for the first time. Ullman plays Mother Nature, who meddles in their fates."

Paul Rudd and Stacey Dash worked with Ms. Heckerling on the hit "Clueless." The veteran director was also behind the camera for comedies like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Johnny Dangerously," "European Vacation," "Loser," "A Night at the Roxbury," and the first two "Look Who’s Talking" movies.

Mr. Rudd, for his part, is also set to score a lot of laughs in next weekend’s "The 40 Year-Old Virgin."