The bear is Ted

Talking teddy trumps stripper tale over weekend

It’s both a bear and bull market for Hollywood. The bear is Ted, Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane’s comedy for Universal Pictures about a talking teddy bear, which opened as the No. 1 movie with $54.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

LOS ANGELES — It’s both a bear and bull market for Hollywood.

The bear is Ted, Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane’s comedy for Universal Pictures about a talking teddy bear, which opened as the No. 1 movie with $54.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

And the bulls are baring it in the Warner Bros. release Magic Mike, Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh’s male-stripper tale that debuted a strong No. 2 with $39.2 million.

The two new movies were backed by a deep bench, with Pixar Animation’s Disney fairy tale Brave holding up well at No. 3 with $34 million in its second weekend. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, the latest from the dependable breadwinner for Lionsgate Films, opened solidly at No. 4 with $26.4 million.

The four movies combined to keep Hollywood in the money compared to the same weekend last year, when Transformers: Dark of the Moon launched with $97.9 million.

It was an equally big weekend overseas, where two huge franchises got a head-start on their U.S. openings.

The 20th Century Fox animated sequel Ice Age: Continental Drift opened with $78 million in 34 international markets, while Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man debuted with $50.2 million in 13 markets. Amazing Spider-Man opens domestically Tuesday for the Fourth of July weekend, while Continental Drift has its U.S. debut July 13.

Domestic revenues totalled $207.7 million, up 3 per cent from the same weekend in 2011, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com. That was quite an accomplishment, considering the Fourth of July fell on Monday last year, making it a long holiday weekend.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com:

1. Ted, $54.1 million.

2. Magic Mike, $39.2 million.

3. Brave, $34 million ($6.7 million international).

4. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, $26.4 million.

5. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, $11.8 million ($16.2 million international).

6. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, $6 million ($5 million international).

7. Prometheus, $4.93 million ($6.2 million international).

8. Moonrise Kingdom, $4.9 million ($375,000 international).

9. Snow White & the Huntsman, $4.4 million ($14.5 million international).

10. People Like Us, $4.3 million.

The only one that didn’t work among new wide releases was the sibling drama People Like Us, which tanked at No. 10 with $4.3 million. A DreamWorks release distributed by Disney, the movie features Chris Pine (Captain Kirk of Star Trek) as a man who gets himself into an awkward relationship with the half-sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had.

Ted stars Wahlberg as a guy whose stuffed bear magically came to life when he was a boy, the two growing up together to become slacker, party-boy roommates.

Writer-director MacFarlane, the creator of TV’s Family Guy, provides the voice of the bear, while Family Guy voice co-star Mila Kunis plays Wahlberg’s girlfriend.

The idea of a cuddly teddy bear combined with a foul mouth and MacFarlane’s wicked sense of humour caught fire with audiences, who lifted Ted far beyond the opening of $35 million or less that Hollywood generally expected.

“In my heart of hearts, I just felt that everybody was starting to talk about this talking bear, and everyone loves Seth MacFarlane, people love his show,” said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. “And the marketing campaign did a great job of telling people how fabulous this picture is for an R-rated audience.”

Magic Mike also far outstripped industry expectations. The weekend was a rare instance where two R-rated movies opened at Nos. 1 and 2, and it followed another unusual weekend where two PG-rated movies (Brave and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted) led the box office.

Directed by Soderbergh, Magic Mike is inspired by Tatum’s early career as a male stripper and features him as a veteran dancer who takes a newcomer (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing.

The beefcake factor of Tatum, Pettyfer and co-star Matthew McConaughey strutting their stuff had women packing theatres in a way that distributor Warner Bros. had not seen since its Sex and the City flicks. Female fans made up 73 per cent of the Magic Mike crowds.

“’Magic Mike’ just didn’t have the brand that ’Sex and the City’ had for so many years,” said Dan Fellman, Warner’s head of distribution. “The fact that it performed in the same vein was a great surprise.”

“Brave” raised its domestic haul to $131.7 million and has added $26.8 million in its slow rollout overseas for a worldwide total of $158.5 million.

Filmmaker and star Perry’s latest features outspoken Southerner Madea taking in a Wall Street guy (Eugene Levy) whose family is placed in witness protection.

The first Perry release in summer, “Madea’s Witness Protection” earned 70 per cent of its revenue from black audiences, down from the filmmaker’s usual 80 per cent, as funnyman Levy and co-star Denise Richards gave it more appeal among whites.

Like “Ted” and “Magic Mike,” ”Madea’s Witness Protection“ did better than Hollywood anticipated. David Spitz, head of distribution for Lionsgate, said movie-going just seems to be in the air, especially considering the 100-degree heat gripping much of the nation.

“People don’t want to be outside in a heat wave, so it’s one of those weekends where benefited from the weather,” Spitz said.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight’s Louisiana story “Beasts of the Southern Wild” opened strongly with $169,236 in four theatres, for an average of $42,309 a cinema. That compares to an average of $16,705 in 3,239 theatres for “Ted.”

The top dramatic prize winner at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, “Beasts” is the survival story of a young girl living with her ailing, boozing father as a storm approaches the Delta wilds.

———

Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:

1. “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” $78 million.

2. “The Amazing Spider-Man,” $50.2 million.

3. “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” $16.2 million.

4. “Snow White & the Huntsman,” $14.5 million.

5. “Brave,” $6.7 million.

6. “Men in Black 3,” $6.4 million.

7. “Prometheus,” $6.2 million.

8. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” $5 million.

9. “Dark Shadows,” $4.2 million.

10. “The Dictator,” $2.5 million.

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