‘Chicken Little’ Takes On Falling Sky, Wins Box-Office Battle

Animated feature beats out war drama 'Jarhead' to open at #1.

While both Chicken Little and Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Jarhead” character, Swoff, could be lauded for their heroics, audiences were more smitten with the feathered cartoon character than the camo-clad Marine.

“Chicken Little,” which picks up where the well-known children’s story left off, bowed at #1 at the box office, earning more than $40 million, according to early estimates. In this new look at the chicken who gets bonked on the head with an acorn and becomes the laughingstock of the town when he insists the sky is falling, Chicken Little finds out that the sky really is falling, and he and his trusted circle of friends must work together to save the world from imminent destruction (see “Zach Braff Calls ‘Chicken Little’ ‘Garden State’ On A Farm” ).

The more sobering “Jarhead,” which co-stars Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard, debuted at #2 with over $28.7 million. Gyllenhaal stars in the film — based on a book by former Marine Anthony Swofford — as a Marine who trudges through his duty in the deserts of the Middle East, coping with a fear of the unknown by forming close-knit friendships with his fellow enlistees(see ” ‘Jarhead’: Stuck In The Suck” ).

“Saw II” continued to scare audiences across the country, shifting from the #1 spot to the #3 position with $17.2 million. In the sequel to last year’s terrifying “Saw,” twisted killer Jigsaw has put together another sardonic puzzle for his victims by locking eight individuals in a room and forcing them to concoct an escape method while they also struggle to stay alive(see ” ‘Saw II’: A Sequel With Guts?” ).

“The Legend of Zorro” earned $10 million this week, cut down to the #4 position from its #2 debut. In this sequel, Zorro — who was hoping to leave behind a life of swashbuckling to start a family — finds himself pulled back into the biz in order to thwart the plans of a crew of land barons that want to keep California from becoming the 31st state (see ” ‘Legend Of Zorro’ Follows Antonio Banderas’ Kid-Friendly Lead” ).

“Prime” also fell two spots, from #3 to #5, with more than $5.2 million. In the romantic comedy, Meryl Streep stars as a therapist who discovers that the young boyfriend of one of her clients — who likes to discuss her sexual escapades with Streep’s character — is actually her son (see “Rewind: Onscreen And Off, What’s Age Got To Do With It?” ).

Like the trio of films before it, “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story” slipped two notches from #4 to #6 with $4.8 million. With Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning starring, “Dreamer” tells the story of a father and daughter who nurse and train a former racehorse to get back on the racetrack (see “For Dakota Fanning, Hollywood Is One Big Box Of Toys” ).

Rounding out this week’s top 10 are “Good Night, and Good Luck,” which debuted on the box-office top 10 at #7 with $3.1 million; “The Weather Man,” which falls from #6 to #8 with more than $2.9 million; “Shopgirl,” which hit the top 10 at #9 with more than $2.5 million; and “Flightplan,” which hovered at #10 with more than $2.3 million.

Overall, ticket sales were down from the corresponding weekend last year.

Next week, look for “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” “Derailed,” “Zathura” and “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” to debut on the box-office top 10, while “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic” and “Bee Season” open in limited markets.

Head to Overdrive for clips from “Chicken Little” and an interview with the film’s star, Zach Braff.

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