‘Happy Feet’ Takes Out James Bond In Box-Office Close Call

Animated film and 'Casino Royale' score big $40-million debuts; 'Borat' drops to #3.

The Top Five

#1 “Happy Feet” ($42.3 million)
#2 “Casino Royale” ($40.6 million)
#3 “Borat” ($14.3 million)
#4 “The Santa Clause 3″ ($8.2 million)
#5 “Flushed Away” ($6.8 million)

The little guys in the tuxedos took out the big brawny guy in a tuxedo this weekend with “Happy Feet” just edging out “Casino Royale” for the box-office lead. With each flick hauling off more than $40 million, there is cause for celebration in both camps today.

Daniel Craig proved his mettle as the newest 007, earning great reviews and very nice numbers for a Bond opening (only bested by the $47 million take of 2002′s “Die Another Day”). Playing in nearly 400 fewer theaters and sporting a much longer running time than its animated competition (which means fewer showings each day), the much anticipated relaunch of the Bond franchise got off to a great start. And with awesome overseas numbers starting to come in — and a second go-round with Craig already green-lit — the franchise is looking as strong as ever.

But enough about Bond. The weekend belonged to those dancing penguins of “Happy Feet.” Proving that animation still packs them in when it’s done right, director George Miller’s slightly subversive musical comedy had a stellar opening with $42.3 million (take that, “March of the Penguins”!) and with family-friendly Thanksgiving weekend upon us, it looks poised for lots more cash.

How’d We Do?

With a neck-and-neck race for #1 this weekend, you can be sure our prognosticators were sweating bullets until the final returns came in. In the end, betting on penguins would have been the right call for anyone gambling at the Casino Royale, so yours truly earned his first win (see “Projection Booth: Bond Is Back, And Battling Penguins” ).

After four weeks of predictions, here’s how it stands:

Prognosticator (Weeks won)

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer (2)
Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor (1)
Celebrity guest (1)

In Perspective

Welcome to the club, Daniel Craig. We now know that you don’t give a damn whether your martinis are shaken or stirred. And, more importantly by Hollywood standards, we also know your battle-scarred mug can open a movie. Let’s see how other Bonds fared at the peak of their powers (box-office totals adjusted for inflation):

» “Die Another Day” (Pierce Brosnan, 2002) – $172 million
» “The Living Daylights” (Timothy Dalton, 1987) – $86 million
» “Moonraker” (Roger Moore, 1979) – $199 million
» “Thunderball” (Sean Connery, 1963) – $388 million

Next Week

You thought two $40-million-plus openings was impressive? Get ready for one of the biggest box-office weekends of the year — nothing says Thanksgiving like a trip with the fam out to the theater. Family holiday comedy interest you? Go for “Deck the Halls.” How about a psychedelic love story? Dip into “The Fountain.” Want some action served up with your turkey? Then it’s Denzel Washington’s “Déjà Vu.” And if you just want to check your brain at the door and laugh, you, my friend, are going to “Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Happy Feet” and “Casino Royale”.

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