On an otherwise unremarkable, if occasionally surprising, weekend at the box office, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby held on to the top spot in its second lap around the track, earning $23 million, according to Sunday’s estimates. The NASCAR comedy dropped 51 percent, but get this with $91.2 mil pumped into its tank in just 10 days, TN:TBORB already ranks as the second-highest-earning vehicle of Will Ferrell's career (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy topped out at $85.3 mil two years ago). Atta boy, Will!
But the weekend's big surprise came at No. 2, where Disney's largely unheralded teen dance movie Step Up wound up after bowing with $21.1 mil. That's about twice as much as industry tracking reportedly predicted, and it's quite an achievement for young stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan. (Who, right?) Critical carping about the movie amounted to a terrible 20 percent ''fresh'' rating on RottenTomatoes.com, but an audience that was nearly three-quarters female and under 25 twirled for the film, awarding it an A- CinemaScore mark. All that said, it's not like Step Up did incredibly well its average was a very, er, average $8,539 but when box office forecasters set the bar so low, it's always sweet to see a movie clear it with ease.
Of course, that left Oliver Stone's World Trade Center at No. 3, with a still-respectable and generally expected $19 mil, the best ever three-day premiere for Stone. Some are speculating that the uncovering of the recent terrorist plot in London may have turned off some potential WTC viewers, but I'm not so sure. The movie got an A- CinemaScore, which is impressive. It opened last Wednesday and its cumulative gross of $26.8 mil is pretty strong. And it should enjoy a slow march toward matching its estimated $65 mil production budget.
Fourth place went to Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, which stayed strong in its second week, dropping a mere 36 percent to earn $10.1 mil. The Japanese horror remake Pulse showed a faint one, scoring $8.5 mil in rounding out the top five. And Tim Allen's super-family adventure Zoom (No. 7) went nowhere fast, grossing just $4.6 mil.
Meanwhile, perhaps the most impressive opening after Step Up came from ThinkFilm's acclaimed teacher-on-crack drama Half Nelson, which was the big small-release winner of the week, averaging $27,475 in two locations. Oh, and kudos to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, now the third-best-grossing documentary ever, with $21.9 mil (that's a few hundred thou more than what Bowling for Columbine made a while back).
Yes, yes, it was a pretty bland weekend, even though the handsome-if-poorly-lit Paul at Exhibitor Relations says that overall grosses were up more than 5 percent from a year ago. So have a great Sunday. Me, I'm going to study up on new Hollywood heavyweight Channing Tatum. Who, by the way, I just found out is a man.