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From the box office: Nov. 2-4

Superstorm Sandy did not deter audiences from going to the multiplex this weekend, as the overall box office was up around 20 percent. This is due in part because of two films: Disney’s animated video game comedy “Wreck-It Ralph” and Paramount Pictures’ powerful drama “Flight.”

Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” earned the No. 1 spot with slightly more than $49 million, the highest-ever opening weekend for a Disney animated film. The film was a success because of its broad appeal. Adults were attracted to the nostalgia of the once-played arcade games featured in the film, and children were attracted to the unique characters and fun concept of the film. Additionally, the film’s star power was another determinant for audiences, as it stars John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch.

The film’s wide release in 3,752 theaters yielded an impressive $13,070 per theater, behind a production budget of $165 million. “Wreck-It Ralph” will continue a profitable streak for the coming weeks, as there are no other competing family films until DreamWorks Animation’s “Rise of the Guardians,” which debuts in three weeks. It is interesting to note that the last Disney animated film to open at No. 1 was “Tangled” (2010), which opened with $48.8 million and had a gross of more than $200 million domestically and $590 million worldwide. If “Wreck-It Ralph” is any indication of history, it can expect to have a domestic gross within that $200 million range, a figure Disney executives are bound to be pleased by.

“Flight,” Paramount’s new drama, opened in second place with about $25 million. The film stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot who miraculously lands a plane after a midair incident. But he is questioned as a hero after his personal problems are revealed. Paramount’s distribution strategy for the film is interesting. “Flight” is neither a limited release nor a wide release, which typically means more than 3,000 locations. Instead, the film was shown in 1,884 theaters and made an impressive $13,217 per theater.

In fact, “Flight” had the third-biggest opening ever for an R-rated film shown in fewer than 2,000 theaters — “The Blair Witch Project” and “Borat” are the preceding two. This counters Hollywood’s notion that more theaters equates to more profitability. It was successful because of its interesting plot, Oscar buzz and powerful lead performance from Denzel Washington. Even with a $31 million production budget, “Flight” is bound to fly its way to the $100 million mark, with the coming holidays and strong word of mouth.

“Flight” will face tough competition though from next weekend’s highly anticipated James Bond flick, “Skyfall,” which has already grossed over $289 million from foreign markets and is on its way to a franchise record.

– Compiled by Ian Tecklin, contributing writer, ijteckli@syr.edu

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