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submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 02.12.2006

Bond shaken up by.....penguins

Bond shaken up by.....penguins
Copyright (2006) SMH

Sydney Morning Herald.

November 20, 2006


While villains such as Goldfinger and Blofeld failed to get the better of James Bond, a group of cartoon penguins has succeeded ... in an unusually tight race at the weekend box office in North America.

The animated tale Happy Feet earned $US42.3 million ($55 million) during its first three days of release across the United States and Canada, while the latest James Bond movie Casino Royale pulled in $US40.6 million, studios estimated on Sunday.

The data was provided by the films' respective studios, Time Warner's Warner Bros and Sony's Columbia Pictures. Some other studios, using their own calculations, said the margin was considerably narrower and that Bond could win when final data is released on Monday. Columbia agreed that the difference could be slimmer, but conceded the fight to Happy Feet.

The cartoon, revolving around singing and dancing emperor penguins, was directed by Australian filmmaker George Miller, the producer of the Babe and Mad Max films. Warner Bros split the costs equally on the $US100 million project with Australian entertainment company Village Roadshow, and the two will share any profits.

The film features the voices of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Robin Williams and the late Steve Irwin.

Some box office prognosticators had predicted Happy Feet could reach the $US50 million range, but Warner Bros distribution president Dan Fellman said the $US40 million threshold was "the magic number for us".

With the Thanksgiving Day holiday on Thursday, the studio expects family moviegoers to sustain ticket sales.

Casino Royale, the first outing of Daniel Craig as the suave superspy, also earned $US42.2 million outside the United States and Canada. The biggest markets were Britain ($US25.6 million) and Russia ($US3.7 million).

The domestic opening was down considerably from the $US47 million bow of the previous Bond film, 2002's Die Another Day, which ended up with $US161 million.

But Columbia said the opening compared favourably with Pierce Brosnan's 007 debut GoldenEye, which started with $US26.2 million in 1995 and finished with $US106 million. (Sales are not adjusted for ticket price inflation.)

After two weeks at No. 1, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan fell to No. 3 with $US14.4 million.

The mock documentary, starring British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as a cluelessly offensive, oversexed TV reporter from Central Asia, has earned $US90.5 million to date.

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