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,

This week
at the movies, we’ve got prehistoric passion (10,000 B.C., starring
Steven Strait and
Camilla Belle), travel travails (College Road Trip,
starring Martin Lawrence and
Raven-Symone), and
hard-boiled heists (The Bank Job, starring
Jason Statham). What do the
critics have to say?

If you’re
looking for subtlety,
Roland Emmerich is not your man. That’s not to say he’s a
bad filmmaker; he’s made some quality big-budget, high-concept yarns (Independence
springs to mind) that deliver thrills aplenty. Unfortunately, critics say
his latest,

10,000 B.C.
, is mired in the stone age. B.C. stars

Steven Strait and
Camilla Belle
as a pair of hunting-and-gathering honeys; when
Belle gets kidnapped, Strait and members of their tribe journey into the unknown
to save her — and run across saber-toothed tigers, wooly mammoths, and other
civilizations. The pundits say 10,000 B.C. doesn’t lack for compelling
visuals, but it’s weak on plot and characterization and filled with
unintentional comedy. At 12 percent on the Tomatometer, 10,000 B.C. is a
Mesolithic mess. It’s also the worst-reviewed film of Emmerich’s career.

“Jiminy Jilickers! Just missed the Red Bull Flugtag!”

College Road Trip,
Martin Lawrence joins
Ice Cube and
Robin Williams in the pantheon
of once-edgy performers toplining poorly-reviewed family road trip comedies.
Lawrence stars as the overbearing father of
Melanie (
Raven-Symone), whose plan for a just-the-girls trip to look at schools
is undermined by her dad’s insistence on going along for the ride; subsequently,
laffs are had and lessons are learned, at least in theory. The pundits say Road
features over-the-top gags and a remarkable shortage of comic
imagination. At zero percent on the Tomatometer, this is the worst-reviewed film
of Lawrence’s career, edging out the five percent
Big Momma’s House 2

Maiden voyage of the Battleship Pigtemkin.

touring the martial arts circuit in movies like
The Transporter
Jason Statham returns to his grimy thriller roots with

The Bank Job
Based on the real-life 1971 robbery of security deposit boxes, he stars as a
petty thug in over his head as the job spirals out of control. It’s a throwback
to the heist movies of yore, and according to the critics (to quote
The French
‘s tagline) the time is right for an out-and-out thriller like this.
Director Roger Donaldson never lets the pace flag, forging a movie that’s
dramatic, funny, and plain entertaining. At 73 percent on the Tomatometer, The Bank Job is looking like a solid investment. (And
check out our Total Recall feature on heist movies


“Who knew Louise Brooks could bend like that?”

opening this week in limited release:

Testing out the rumor that Stratocasters taste like fried banana.

Roland Emmerich Films:
46% — The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
62% — The Patriot (2000)
25% — Godzilla (1998)
62% —

43% — Stargate (1994)

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