‘Brave’ Wards Off Box-Office Competition

Film becomes 13th consecutive Pixar film to debut at #1.

There’s nothing unlucky about the number 13 for Disney/Pixar. Over the weekend, “Brave” became the 13th consecutive film from the animation unit behind “Toy Story” and “Wall-E” to debut at #1. The animated archery adventure hit a box-office bull’s-eye to the tune of $66.7 million, according to estimates. And cartoons dominated the weekend box office as DreamWorks’ “Madagascar 3″ landed at #2.

Unfortunately for Fox, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” was not so lucky. The $69 million-budget historical/ fantasy mash-up opened at #3 with just $16.5 million.

“Brave” opened stronger than last year’s “Cars 2,” which bears the distinction of being the only Pixar film with a “rotten” critical average on Rotten Tomatoes. While reviews for “Brave” weren’t as overwhelmingly enthusiastic as those for flicks like “Toy Story 3″ and “Wall-E,” the studio’s latest still boasts a 74 percent score on the film-review-aggregator site.

The opening numbers for “Brave” were the fifth-highest for Pixar (ninth when adjusted for ticket price inflation). “Toy Story 3″ ranks at #1 in both categories, with its astonishing $110 million opening (on slightly fewer screens than “Brave,” to boot) two years ago. Audiences gave “Brave” a CinemaScore of “A.”

“Brave” is the first Disney/Pixar to center on a female protagonist, telling the story of a Scottish princess who bucks tradition to shape her own destiny. It was nearly the first Pixar film to be directed by a woman too. Brenda Chapman, who conceived the story, was replaced mid-production by Mark Andrews.

Box-office prognosticators were right on the money late last week when it came to “Brave,” but the numbers for “Lincoln” were even lower than most of them projected. IMDb’s Keith Simanton told MTV News that the Tim Burton-produced book adaptation would need to match the $23 million collected by “Zombieland” on opening weekend to be considered a success. “I’m putting it at $19 million. But it may be closer to $17 million,” he predicted.

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” which was #1 for two weekends in a row, took in $20.2 million in its third weekend in theaters for a domestic total of $157.6 million. “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” made a total of $180 million after it opened in 2008. The first “Madagascar” film cleared $193.5 million three years before. “Madagascar 3″ is the best-reviewed of the series. “This is the rare animated property that has consistently improved on its ho-hum origins,” Variety’s Justin Chang wrote.

“Prometheus” grossed another $10 million for a $108.5 million total. Box-office bombs “Rock of Ages” and “That’s My Boy” fell even further in their second weekends, grossing just $8 million (against a $75 million budget) and $7.9 million, respectively. “Rock of Ages” has made $28.8 million to date; “That’s My Boy,” $28.2 million.

In limited release, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” collected $3.8 million in its debut. The Focus Features film starring Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley played in 1,625 locations, versus the 4,164 where “Brave” was available. The Los Angeles Times reported that the film was expected to open with at least $7 million.

Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love” made $379,371 on just five screens. That’s the second-best per-screen average this year, behind “Moonrise Kingdom,” which averaged $130,749 across four theaters last month. Last year, “Midnight in Paris” became Allen’s highest-grossing picture ever and was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. “Paris” boasted a 93 percent Tomatometer rating, however, whereas “Rome” sat at 55 percent at press time.

Next weekend’s new releases include “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s live-action directorial debut, “Ted,” which stars Mark Wahlberg; male stripper tale “Magic Mike,” with Channing Tatum; the Chris Pine/ Elizabeth Banks dramedy “People Like Us”; and Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Witness Protection Program.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Brave.”
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