LOS ANGELES The animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph and Denzel Washington drama Flight both took off with strong openings last weekend, eliminating fears in Hollywood that moviegoing on the East Coast would be depressed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Wreck-It Ralph opened to a healthy $49 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios, while Flight started off with $25 million, strong for a serious movie about alcoholism.
Martial arts film The Man With the Iron Fists, directed by hip-hop star RZA, opened to a modest $8 million, in line with Universal Pictures’ expectations for the low-budget production.
Overall receipts were up 21 percent from the same weekend a year ago.
The opening of Wreck-It, about a video game villain looking for redemption in an arcade, was virtually identical to the first weekend of 2010’s Disney Animation Studios release Tangled. (Tangled opened the day before Thanksgiving, however, and grossed $68.7 million over five days.)
Audiences gave Wreck-It Ralph an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, indicating it should play very well in the weeks to come.
Ticket sales were strong even at late-night shows, he added, a sign that adults with a fondness for classic game characters who appear in the movie, like Street Fighter’s Zangief and Pac-Man ghost Clyde, turned out even if they don’t have kids. But 68 percent of ticket sales were to families, according to exit polls.
Flight, meanwhile, drew an overwhelmingly adult audience, with 89 percent of ticket buyers over 25. Drawn by Washington, positive reviews and director Robert Zemeckis’ return to live-action drama after more than a decade in motion-capture animation, they gave it an average CinemaScore of Aminus.
Paramount opened Flight at only 1,884 theaters, compared with 3,752 for Wreck-It Ralph, and hopes to expand that number in two weeks against the debut of the teentargeted The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2.
Paramount Pictures spent only $31 million to make Flight, putting it on a clear route to profitability.
Moviegoers did not seem as pleased with The Man With the Iron Fists, as the mostly male audience who turned out gave it a weak CinemaScore of just C-plus. Still, Universal spent only $15 million to make the movie, which carried a “Quentin Tarantino presents” tag, and executives at the studio declared themselves satisfied with the opening.
Among returning films, Argo enjoyed another impressive hold, with ticket sales down only 15 percent on the Ben Affleck-directed historical drama’s fourth weekend to $10 million. Its total domestic gross is now $76 million.
The Liam Neeson thriller Taken 2 also experienced a very modest drop of only 22 percent. Its domestic box-office total after five weeks is a strong $125 million. 2009’s original Taken ultimately collected $145 million in the United States and Canada, a mark the sequel is now virtually certain to surpass.
The low-budget comedy Pitch Perfect, about college a cappella singers, fell only 23 percent on its sixth weekend and is now up to a healthy $55.6 million.
MovieStyle, Pages 34 on 11/09/2012
Print Headline: Sandy can’t swamp Flight, Ralph