simpsonsacross.JPG

SUNDAY AM: A toon triumph! I’m told 20th Century Fox says its four quadrant hit The Simpsons Movie shred the competition for No. 1 with a $71.8 million North American weekend, or more than double what the studio hoped. groeningsimpsonized.jpgAfter a stunning $30 million on Friday from 3,922 North American theaters, Homer and the family fell 23% Saturday to take in $23.1 million. The studio projects an $18.7 million Sunday (-17%). Overseas, The Simpsons Movie is also No. 1 by a wide margin with an average 55% market share. The toon grossed a phenomenal $96 million in 71 day and date markets, despite debuting in only 8 of the top 15 markets: UK, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Australia and Argentina. Opening day records included: biggest industry opening day ever in Australia, Argentina, Columbia and Chile; and biggest animated opening day ever in Australia, Belgium, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, Venezuela. Sources told me that CinemaScore had U.S. audiences giving big screen Simpsons an “A-”, with families particularly loving it. There had been early concern inside the studio with tracking showing that the “parents taking their kids” score was lower than execs wanted. But, aided by its brief 87 minute running time, The Simpsons Movie smashed record books for toons. According to Fox, it opened bigger than any Pixar film and bigger than any non-sequel animated film ever. It’s also the biggest opening for a non-CGI animated film including sequels (the previous record holder was Disney’s The Lion King).

The Simpsons Movie’s $30 million Friday was a shock to the Industry because it was more than Transformers made on its opening day and best single day this summer, and good enough for The Simpsons to slot into the Hollywood’s Top 17 opening days of all time (right behind the $30.1 mil of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones). simpsonspopout.gifBut the well reviewed (a score of 88% positive critiques on Rotten Tomatoes) and wide release (playing in 3,922 North American theaters) pic managed an outstanding per screen average of 7,649 Friday and ended the weekend with a high $18,320 3-day per screen average. Some naysayers didn’t believe the movie could pack a punch, given that The Simpsons is all over television on network and in syndication. Hah! The analysts I’m talking to attribute the film’s success to Fox’s omnipresent marketing (including Homer opening this week’s Tonight Show and earlier American Idol as well as that inspired 7-Eleven cross-promotion). Pic insiders have nothing but praise for the year-long marketing and distribution campaign which Fox orchestrated throughout the News Corp empire. “The old saw of synergy within media companies, that was never full realized before, paid off here,” a source told me. And remember: Fox says the pic cost only $75 million (without marketing) because so much animation work was done in South Korea.

The No. 2 movie, Universal’s buddy comedy with Adam Sandler and Kevin James I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry stayed strong (dropping only -44%) and made $19 million this weekend from 3,501 venues. Its new cume is a great $71.6 mil because there haven’t been enough laffers at the box office this summer. whokilledme6.jpgWarner’s Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix scored a big kiddie matinee Saturday and jumped up to No. 3 its 3rd weekend out raking in $17.6 mil from 4,005 runs. Its hot new cume is now a whopping $242.3 mil. New Line’s Hairspray slowed for its 2nd weekend (-44%) to No. 4 and took in $15.4 mil from 3,121 runs for a new cume of $59.4 mil. Jumping into 5th place was the DreamWorks and Paramount coproduction Transformers which added another $11.5 mil from 3,349 dates its 4th weekend in release for a blistering new cume of $284.6 mil. Warner’s No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, opened in the 6th spot (with a CinemScore of “B+”, sources say) with $12 mil this weekend from 2,425 runs.

After five weekends, Ratatouille still managed to rake in $7.4 mil from 2,934 theaters for the 7th spot and a healthy new cume of $179.8 mil. Fox’s Live Free Or Die Hard hangs in for a 5th weekend in 8th place, taking in $5.3 mil from 2,271 runs for a new cume of $125.1 mil. Insiders told me that CinemaScore’s polling of moviegoers resulted in an “F” to Lindsay Lohan’s horror flick I Know Who Killed Me, which opened in 9th place to only $3.4 mil from 1,320 venues. No question she’s killing her career with her off-screen behavior. Rounding out the Top 10, horribly reviewed Who’s Your Caddy? from The Weinstein Co debuted with $2.9 mil from 1,019 venues.

Here’s the Top 10 chart:

  1. 1. Simpsons Movie $30M Fri, $23.1M Sat, and est $18.7M Sun. (cume $71.8M)
  2. 2. Chuck And Larry $6.2M Fri, $7.2M Sat, and est $5.8M Sun. ($71.6M)
  3. 3. Harry Potter Phoenix $5M Fri, $7M Sat, and est $5.6M Sun. ($242.3M)
  4. 4. Hairspray $5.2M Fri, $6M Sat, and est $4.5M Sun. ($59.5M)
  5. 5. Transformers $3.2M Fri, $4.6M Sat, and est $3.6M Sun. ($284.5M)
  6. 6. No Reservations $4M Fri, $4.5M, and est $3.5M Sun ($12M)
  7. 7. Ratatouille $2.2M Fri, $2.9M Sat, and est $2.2M Sun. ($179.8M)
  8. 8. Live Free Or Die Hard $1.5M Fri, $2.2M Sat, and est $1.5M Sun. ($125.1M)
  9. 9. I Know Who Killed Me $1.3M Fri, $1.1M Sat, and est $905K Sun. ($3.4M)
  10. 10. Who’s Your Caddy? $950K Fri, $1.1M Sat, and est $850K Sun. ($2.9M)

SATURDAY AM: What a shocker! I’m told 20th Century Fox’s official Friday estimate shows The Simpsons Movie made $30 million Friday — or what the studio hoped its toon would make all weekend — and could have an $80 million weekend. simpsonspopcorn2.JPGThe Simpsons Movie opened day and date in some foreign territories, too, where it was smashing records for a toon (in Australia) and a tentpole (in Argentina). Asia and Latin America were trending huge. In England comparisons were being made to Lord Of the Rings, and in France to Transformers.FRIDAY PM: “This could be much bigger than anyone thought,” a 20th Century Fox source said to me this afternoon. Not just domestically but overseas, too. (See below.) Because very early reports indicate The Simpsons Movie is looking to debut around $27 million today. That’s right — in Transformers opening day territory! If this holds true, it means Homer, Bart, Marge and family on the big screen could wind up with a $70+ million opening weekend. That’s more than twice what 20th Century Fox was expecting and far more than my box office gurus were projecting. (See my previous: Predictions: Homer & Bart Big!)  I just went back and looked what I predicted for The Simpsons Movie back on May 1st: Kudos to Jim Brooks and Fox for keeping much of The Simpsons Movie’s plot a secret, which I predict will help it become the biggest non-sequel movie of the summer. C’mon, who’s not gonna see this pic here and overseas?

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.