March 23, 2008 / 6:30 PM / 10 years ago

"Horton" triumphs at North American box office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Horton the elephant retained the heavyweight crown at the North American box office on Sunday, but the Easter holiday failed to prevent overall sales from resuming their downtrend.

<p>Cast member Steve Carell attends the premiere of the film "Horton Hears a Who!" in Los Angeles March 8, 2008. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>

“Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!,” a computer-animated fable starring the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, sold about $25.1 million worth of tickets during the three days beginning Friday, said distributor 20th Century Fox.

After 10 days, the film has earned $86.5 million in North America, matching its production budget. It becomes the first release of 2008 to lead the field for two weekends. Carrey voices the title character, a rubbery elephant who stumbles upon a speck that happens to be a tiny planet, home to a city called Who-ville. Carell voices the excitable mayor.

“People like the film and they can take the whole family,” said Bert Livingston, senior VP of distribution at the News Corp-owned studio.

“Horton” also earned $25.2 million from 49 international markets, including $6.1 million from a No. 1 bow in Britain, and $2.5 million from its second-place start in Australia. Its foreign total rose to $50 million since its opening.

Four movies opened in the North American top 10, led by prolific writer/director Tyler Perry’s latest comedy-drama “Meet the Browns” at No. 2 with $20.0 million, roughly in line with his past efforts such as last October’s “Why Did I Get Married?” and 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”

“Meet the Browns” stars Angela Bassett as a single mother struggling to raise three children in Chicago. Perry’s films are released by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

Also new were the horror remake “Shutter” at No. 3 with $10.7 million, and the Owen Wilson comedy “Drillbit Taylor” at No. 4 with $10.2 million. The modest sums were in line with the limited expectations of their respective distributors, Fox and Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures.

“Under the Same Moon” (“La Misma Luna”) shone at No. 10 with $2.6 million from just 266 theaters, one-tenth the average number of outlets for the other movies in the top 10. It is the best opening for a Spanish-language film, surpassing the record of $1.6 million from 340 theaters set last year by U.S.-made heist comedy “Ladron Que Roba A Ladron.”

Released by News Corp’s Fox Searchlight and closely held Weinstein Co., “Under the Same Moon” follows a 9-year-old Mexican boy who travels to America to find his mother, an illegal immigrant.

Also opening in limited release was “The Hammer,” a comedy starring radio satirist Adam Carolla. It earned a solid $107,000 from just 20 theaters.

Overall sales tumbled 16.6 percent to $112 million, according to Media By Numbers, which collects box office numbers. Sales have fallen for five of the last six weekends, with this year’s lineup failing to match the popularity of early 2007 offerings like “Ghost Rider” and “Wild Hogs.”

Year-to-date sales stand at $1.97 billion, up 1.3 percent. But ticket-price inflation accounted for the modest increase, since the number of tickets sold was down by almost 2 percent, Media By Numbers said.

Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Cynthia Osterman

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