But the gambit paid off with an estimated three-day opening of $25 million from 3,434 theaters, about $5 million more than the potty-mouthed stars of 'Beavis and Butt-Head' managed in 1996. Disney's 'The Princess and the Frog' set a new December opening weekend box office record for animated features, topping former champ 'Beavis & Butt-Head Do America.' The studio's re-imagining of the Grimm Brothers' 'Frog Prince' fairy tale is its first hand-drawn animated feature since 2004's 'Home on the Range' and one of the few animated films it has ever released in the weeks before Christmas.
But the gambit paid off with an estimated three-day opening of $25 million from 3,434 theaters, about $5 million more than the potty-mouthed stars of 'Beavis and Butt-Head' managed in 1996.
"Heh-heh, he said potty."
The inspirational sports drama 'The Blind Side' added an estimated $15 million to a running -- we mean sprinting -- total that now stands at an estimated $150 million. Star Sandra Bullock's second '09 blockbuster (after 'The Proposal') has finished one or two on the weekend box office chart four straight times.
Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus,' a wide-canvas drama about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team in the early post-apartheid years, finished third with an estimated total of around $10 million. The movie -- Eastwood's 30th as a director -- has a heavy Oscar wind at its back and may do most of its business after the holidays.
Dropping to fourth on the chart is 'New Moon,' with $7.5 million. The second in the who-knows-how-many-'Twilight Saga'-episodes-there-will-eventually-be has grossed nearly $270 million since its Nov. 20 opening, a scant 24 days ago. Meanwhile, 'Disney's A Christmas Carol' held its own, finishing fifth with an estimated $7 million and $124.6 million total.
'Up in the Air,' the George Clooney-starring comedy/drama about a career corporate lay-off guy, expanded from 7 to 72 theaters and fell just short of jumping into the top 10. It finished 11th with $2.5 million, but it's $34,000 per-screen average and an expected batch of Golden Globe nominations coming Tuesday bodes well for its wide expansion on Christmas Day for the Oscar race ahead.
Going on behind the scenes is a scramble by hold-over films to hold onto theaters against the coming juggernaut of 'Avatar.' James Cameron's first feature since all-time box office champ 'Titanic' in 1997 has received rave reviews from critics ignoring the studio's day-and-date embargo, and analysts are readjusting upward their forecasts for its eventual box office performance.
Theaters will also have to make room next week for the romantic comedy 'Did Your Hear About the Morgans?,' starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as a New York couple relocated to Wyoming after witnessing a murder in the Big Apple.
Here are this weekend's estimates:
1. 'The Princess and the Frog, ' 3,434 theaters, $27 million.
2. 'The Blind Side,' 3,388 theaters. $15.5 million. Total: $150.2 million
3. 'Invictus,' 2,125 theaters. $9.1 million.
4. 'New Moon,' 3,635 theaters. $7.5 million. Total: $267.4 million.
5. 'Disney's A Christmas Carol,' 2,402 theaters. $6.9 million. Total: $124.5 million.
' 7. 'Brothers,' 2,088 theaters, $5 million. Total: $17.4 million.
8. 'Old Dogs,' 3,090, $4.4 million. Total: $40 million.
9. 'Armored,' 1,919, $3.5 million. Total: $11.7 million.
10. 'Ninja Assassin,' 2,100, $2.7 million. Total: $34.3 million.