Bond shaken by ... happy

Bond shaken by ... happy penguins.

The Sydney Morning Herald

November 20, 2006 - 10:45AM

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

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.