/ 29 June 2008

WALL-E wows North American box office

Animation giant Pixar hit the box-office jackpot once again on Sunday as its robot love story WALL-E snagged the number one spot during its first weekend of release across North America.

The movie, bolstered by near-unanimous critical praise, earned an estimated $62,5-million in its first three days, said Pixar’s Walt Disney parent.

It tied with 2001’s Monsters, Inc to become Pixar’s third-best opener. The company record of $70,5-million was set in 2004 by The Incredibles.

Industry pundits had been forecasting an opening for WALL-E in the $50-million to $60-million range.

Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie scored a personal best with the violent assassination thriller Wanted, which opened at number two with a better-than-expected $51,1-million, said distributor Universal Pictures. Her previous record for a live-action movie was 2005’s Mr & Mrs Smith,” which opened to $50 million.

Last weekend’s champion, the Warner Bros comedy Get Smart slipped to number three with $20-million, taking its 10-day haul to $77,3-million. The film should finish up with about $130-million, said the Time Warner-owned studio.

Pixar, which Disney bought in 2006 for $7,4-billion in stock, has gone to number one with all nine of its movies, a heady run that begin in 1995 with Toy Story.

WALL-E, a space adventure mixing an unusual love story with sombre messages about the future of Earth and humankind, was directed by Andrew Stanton, who won an Academy Award for Pixar’s 2003 hit Finding Nemo.

The title character, or Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, is the last of a cadre of robots tasked with cleaning up piles of trash discarded by humans who abandoned the planet centuries before.

The human race set off on a luxury space cruise during a planned five-year clean-up that lasts much longer and results in unfortunate changes in the human physique and psyche.

The arrival of a sleek girl robot named Eve, sent to Earth by the orbiting humans to look for plant life, sends Wall-E on an adventure that changes his own and humanity’s destinies.

Critics heaped praise on the film. According to Rotten Tomatoes, a website that collects reviews, an astonishing 96% of critics liked the film.

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune said it was perhaps ”the best American studio picture of the year,” but the Hollywood Reporter said ”it might be too clever to connect with mainstream audiences”. – Reuters